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Deist “Doonesbury” Snipes God on Christmas Day

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Posted on December 28 2010 11:00 am
Walter Hudson is a political commentator and co-founder of Minnesota's North Star Tea Party Patriots, a statewide educational organization. He runs a blog entitled Fightin Words. He also contributes to True North, a hub of Minnesotan conservative commentary. Follow his work via Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.
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Doonesbury cartoonist Garry Trudeau offered readers an odd Christmas Day sentiment, prompting NewsBusters to accuse him of hating God.

A female social worker is chatting with a female soldier and asking her if she gets support out in the field. They have this exchange:

SOLDIER: Yes, ma’am, I talk to our chaplain.

SOCIAL WORKER: Good. A chaplain can be a good resource.

SOLDIER: Mine yells at God a lot.

SOCIAL WORKER: He deserves it. In my extremely humble opinion

Whether Trudeau is an avowed atheist is not immediately apparent. Regardless, he references a common and rhetorically powerful argument used by atheists to advance their position, the problem of evil. A good god would not produce a world with evil in it. This argument is fascinating because it moves from an attack upon the existence of God to an attack upon the person of God. In this way, it demonstrates that some avowed atheists are not atheistic at all.

Trudeau’s choice to evoke the problem of evil on Christmas Day suggests a particular frustration with the Christian God. Indeed, the problem of evil only gains rhetorical traction when applied against a god who claims to be good.

Of course, in order to argue against the person of God in this manner, you must accept that He exists. If God does not exist, why yell at Him? If God does not exist, how could He deserve criticism?

Along with choosing Christmas to lash out, another indication that Trudeau has a personal problem with the Christian God is his relative disinterest in critique of Islam. Recall Turdeau’s stance in an interview with the Santa Barbara Independent:

Q. What did you make of the Danish cartoon mess? I understand that you said you would never play with the image of Allah. But did you feel you should have done so out of a sense of professional solidarity, or to make a statement about freedom of speech?

A. What exactly would that statement be? That we can say whatever we want in the West? Everyone already knows that. So then the question becomes, should we say whatever we want? That, to me, is the crux. Do you hurt people just because you can? Because you feel they shouldn’t be deeply hurt, does that mean they aren’t? Should the New York Times run vicious caricatures of blacks and Jews just to show the First Amendment in action? At some point, common sense and sensitivity have to be brought to bear.

We can ascertain that Trudeau felt the point he made on Christmas Day was important enough to override any sensitivity to Christians. The question is why? What specifically tips the scales in favor of critiquing the Christian God as opposed to the Islamic one?

Trudeau provides us with the answer, right there in the dialog between his characters. Christians are not his target. It is their God who deserves criticism. Trudeau speaks of Allah and Muslims as he might of Santa Claus and children. Why deeply hurt the kids? Let them have their faith in their comforting myth. He cannot extend the same courtesy to Christians because, in his mind, their God is more than a myth. Their God is a poor cosmic manager who deserves to be yelled at.

This small episode is emblematic of  a particular brand of “atheism” which is not atheism at all, but a kind of deist rebellion. It is a perspective which inherently acknowledges the existence of God while questioning his worthiness as a sovereign.

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