“One: if God does not exist, objective moral values do not exist. Two: objective moral values do exist. Three: therefore, God exists,” I said, explaining the moral argument for the existence of God to my a few Christian classmates over Pizz’a Chicago. This argument is one of the oldest and best available to the Theist; for those interested in the argument itself, I would commend you to the work of William Lane Craig. We had just finished a wonderful hike in the mist and trees of the Santa Cruz Mountains and warming up around a fire at my place. We were beginning a lively philosophy discussion. For anyone who knows me, you know that there aren’t too many better possible days. The pizza was delicious (the “Al Capone”; who’d have thought pecans go well on pizza?), and it was looking like it would be the perfect end to a perfect day.
Then there was a person standing over us at the end of our table. It was the man from the next table. He was a short man in his fifties, balding slightly, wearing a full beard with flecks of grey. Surprised, I gave him my attention. He said, “We can hear you from over there. And, you’re wrong!” I suppose I had been a bit loud; it was a pizza joint, after all, and I had to raise my voice to get it across the table. I wondered which of the two premises he disagreed with (I guessed it was the first; this is the approach most Atheists take). I started gesturing for him to join our conversation, but he had already turned around and returned to his seat, next to what appeared to be his high school-aged son and elementary school-aged daughter.
He shot a glance over to me, to see what effect his breach in manners had caused. Perhaps he was hoping for shock, outrage or anger. I don’t think he was expecting polite curiosity. “Which premise?” I asked him. “Both of them!” he shot back, surprised and not looking at me. “Please explain,” I offered politely, again gesturing to the empty seat next to me. At this point, the man came to his senses. He did the most rational thing a mature thinker could have in such a situation: he utterly ignored me.
After this brash interruption of our conversation, I composed myself. I soon continued my exposition of the argument to my friends and the conversation continued pleasantly. All the while, in the back of my mind, I was thinking how to repay this guy. He had interrupted my conversation on a topic which was extremely important. He tried to embarrass me in public and in front of my friends. He wanted to make me look bad and show off to his kids. And then I thought of a way. He’d be so pissed. It would shame him in front of his kids and he’d never be able to get me back. He’d never forget me. Ever. It was perfect.
I called the waitress over, gave her my credit card, and quietly paid for his family’s dinner.
My friends and I finished our pizza, and got up to leave. I walked over to the man’s table while they were still unaware of what I had done and I said warmly, “Enjoy your dinner!” For those unaware of American customs, the proper response would have been something like, “Thank you.” Perhaps this courtesy had shocked the man into silence, or perhaps he was still ignoring me. Maybe his mouth was full. In any case, it was his son who responded with an accusatory tone that ought to be reserved only for the basest of criminals, “You can’t prove God! It’s not falsifiable and therefore false!” Recovering, the man, with what he must have thought was an irrefutable disproof of my argument, said with the confidence of a mathematician delivering the conclusion to a proof, “William of Occam.” Now for those of you who are not experienced in Philosophy, William of Occam is a man and not himself an argument, or at least the words “William of Occam” do not compose a well-formed or convincing argument. But it seemed to be offered as one, which might suggest conversation was actually possible.
I started to respond that proof was possible, but they weren’t listening. I cannot now remember how I knew that they were not listening and desperately wanted me to leave. I don’t have a memory of them covering their ears with their hands, or shouting to drown out my words, or shooing me away like a dog, but however they did it, they communicated as much to me. Then the most unexpected thing of all happened: the daughter, in stark contrast to her family, showed me kindness. She stood up, walked over to me, and gave me a paper craft she had been working on all through dinner.