Before I expose the secret of atheist lachrymosity, let me tell you how you won’t make a physicist cry.
Tell a physicist that there would be no gravity without G. “G” is the gravitational “constant” (or maybe even a scalar field), a parameter that makes equations for gravity work out. No G, no gravity. No gravity, no universe-as-we-know-it. Flatville, where there isn’t even one TV channel, where there aren’t any TVs, and no beings to watch them. Boring place!
You just try and tell a physicist that. I dare you. Know what he’ll do?
He’ll say, with eyes as dry as Hillary’s upon learning about the death of Seth Rich, “True. But there is G, therefore there is gravity. Now let’s watch the Tigers on TV.”
The physicist knows what a counterfactual proposition is, the answer to which he doesn’t take personally.
Not so with the atheist. Tell an atheist there could be no morality, no right and no wrong, without G—without God, that is—and there will weeping and gnashing of teeth; there will be hot, bitter tears; there will cries of anguish and hurt feelings. There will be charges of hate. There will be calumny!
Now it does not follow, and it is not claimed, that because somebody does not believe in God that they are therefore immoral. Just as it does not follow, as it is never claimed, that because somebody does not believe in G that they are therefore weightless. A person who denies G will still get wet when taking a long walk off a short dock, just as a person who denies God will still have qualms when stealing candy from a baby.
Yet every time a theist makes the obvious true point that if there were no God, there could be no absolute morality, no universal right and no universal wrong, the atheist believes, or pretends to believe, he has been insulted. He therefore cries: genuine waterworks if he could not follow the counterfactual, crocodile tears if he could. He takes it personally, or claims to.
Of course atheists can be moral if they disbelieve in God! Of course a man will not float into the aether if he disbelieves in G! Because there really is ultimate morality, just like there really is gravity.
We can say more. The man who disbelieves in G, or says he does, will not venture past the dock’s end, unless his disbelief is so sincere that he is able to ignore all the evidence from his senses that he is not floating. He must disbelieve in G so strongly that he (practically) cares for nothing else except his odd theory. Only then will he keep walking, certain sure that his Birkenstocks will remain dry.
What will enter his mind after his dunking? Most men would at that point convert and admit their error and proclaim the truth of G. But for a few men, ideological and dogmatic, one aquatic experience will not be enough. Nor two. Nor maybe even a lifetime’s dunkings. The lure of their fantastical theory is too strong.
These diehards will cry when you insist on the reality of G.
Similarly, the man who denies God, or says he does, will not rape, murder, and steal, at least, not at rates different (or much different) than other men, unless his disbelief is so strong that he sincerely acts on the conclusion that, without God, there is no universal morality. The logic that gives this conclusion would be valid and sound if the premise “God does not exist” is true, which it isn’t. Anyway, this man will reason that if nothing matters, whatever he does is without moral consequence. He might do anything.
He’ll get away with anything at no greater rates than others, until he meets a posse of men who, if they don’t believe in God, at least believe in God’s morality.
This man, whether caught or no, won’t cry when you insist on the reality of God. Not real tears, anyway.