October 17, 2008

God Wins Lawsuit

I wrote more than a year ago that Ernie Chambers, a state legislator in Nebraska, had taken atheism advocacy too far by filing a lawsuit against God. Now that the lawsuit has been thrown out -- on the exact grounds I predicted, lack of service of process -- I feel vindicated. Chambers presented a very confused message in the media surrounding his ill-thought-out stunt. He variously called it a protest against frivolous lawsuits, a protest against a previous judicial ruling about words and phrases used in a criminal prosecution, a protest against restrictions on access to the courts, and generally anything else that seemed to bug him about the way things are in Nebraska.

If you're going to try to effect social and political change, the first thing you need to do is articulate a coherent expression of the kind of change you would like to effect. Chambers failed that test. It's also not a good idea to abuse the legal system along the way.

Now, if Chambers wanted to pull off a stunt in favor of atheism, the seeds of a good argument are there. If God is omniscient, then God surely knew that Chambers had filed suit against Him. Yet God did nothing in response. There is no place where God can be served with judicial process. How is this different than God not existing in the first place? But Chambers seems to shy away from making even that argument.

I wish more open non-theists held political office. But that can't be my top priority when I go to the ballot box. And we atheists certainly don't need more non-theistic office holders like Ernie Chambers. If one is going to hold public office, the top priority is to be an advocate for good public policy, not for one's religious beliefs. Whether one believes in God or not ultimately has little to do with that; public policy and religion are distinct spheres of life and only rarely should they intersect. It's as objectionable to see Chambers doing stupid stunts in the name of atheism as it is to see religious politicians do stupid stunts in the name of their beliefs.

Chambers has done the cause of non-theists in America no favors, and I reject him totally.

1 comment:

Michael Reynolds said...

I'm with you. I'm not going to endorse that actions of a jackass just because he's a "co-religionist."