In August of 2018, several articles appeared online that stated that Batman did not believe in God. He was, in a word, an atheist.1 Naturally, as a life-long Batman fan, this “revelation” piqued my interest. After all, it’s not everyday that you hear that your favorite childhood superhero holds a philosophical position that is the exact opposite of your own.
Now, obviously, Batman is a fictional comic-book character, so his status as an actual atheist is rather questionable. However, as a thought-experiment, let’s assume that it’s true. Let’s assume that Batman is an atheist. And, in addition to that, let’s also assume that the whole Batman story-line is true in reality. So, Batman exists, the Joker exists, the whole thing is real. At the same time, let’s also assume that the only viable and coherent form of atheism is atheistic-naturalism, which states that the only thing that exists is the natural, material world. (And note that while we are assuming this claim for the sake of brevity, it is a claim that has been strenuously argued for, by both believers and unbelievers alike. Consequently, it is not just some unsupported assertion, but one that has strong arguments behind it.)
So, with these assumptions in mind, we can now investigate how Batman supports theism while also undermining unbelief.
To see how this is the case, consider that if atheism is true, then Batman is a fool. Not only is Batman a fool, but the Joker is right. In fact, if atheism is true, then the Joker is more rational than Batman is.
Think about it. Night after night, Batman goes out, trying to stop crime, trying to prevent evil, and trying to help the innocent. Psychologically, Batman is a mess. He is a man who suffers so much, that he decides to dress like a bat in order to avenge what was done to him, and to achieve justice for others. Personally, he has no life, for his whole life is geared towards his existence as the Dark Knight. Indeed, his only purpose is to be the Bat: to protect, to save, and to avenge. And when it comes to morality, he has his unbreakable moral rule: he won’t kill anyone, not even someone like the Joker.
Yet, a problem now arises, because, as Richard Dawkins and many other atheistic-naturalists, like Alex Rosenberg and Joel Marks, have told us, on atheism, there exists no objective or ultimate purpose in life; nor is there any good or evil, or any absolute morality. Morality, in an absolute or objective sense, does not exist given atheism. And even if it did, on atheistic-naturalism, who cares? Nothing, ultimately, is going to happen to you for any pain, suffering, or evil that you cause. There is no afterlife to punish you for your immoral actions. And while society might catch you and punish you for your crimes, it’s also true that it might not. Furthermore, you might not even care about such punishment. So, even the threat of facing punishment in this life is a weak deterrent to immorality and evil. Moreover, on the atheistic view, human beings are fundamentally just meat-machines. We are just particles-in-motion, living in a universe that neither knows nor cares about us, nor does it know or care about our pains or our purposes. At most, in this uncaring cosmos, we live for our own subjective purposes, and for our own fleeting personal pleasures, if we even live for those. So, in such a universe, who really cares if some meat-machines feel pain and are hurt, and some aren’t. Ultimately, it does not matter. Of course, these are brutal and harsh ideas, but if atheism is reality, then these ideas are also true, regardless of how harsh they may be!
But now consider the Joker, especially after thinking about both Batman as well as the hard truths about atheism mentioned above. Many people think the Joker is insane, but he’s not. Not really. He’s not even a psychopath, at least not necessarily. Rather, the Joker is simply an extremely consistent nihilist, meaning that he’s someone who believes that there really is no such thing as right or wrong, and that life has no real purpose or meaning. Indeed, the Joker is just someone who acts as if the things that Richard Dawkins and other atheistic-naturalists say are true, really are true. Again, think about it. The Joker does what he wants. He does not worry about such pedestrian things as morality, or the whims of society. He sees no good or evil. He just sees particles in motion. Thus, he does not let society, or anything else, control him, or tell him what to do. He makes his own purposes. And if that includes hurting other human meat-machines, who cares. Ultimately, he won’t be punished for it. It’s not even genuinely wrong in the Joker’s eyes; its just different. After all, on the worldview brought about by atheistic-naturalism, why is another person’s desire to avoid pain any more important or moral than the Joker’s desire to inflict that pain. In the end, it’s not. In fact, as nature shows us, the Joker’s violence is both natural and entirely consistent with an evolutionary existence that favors power and survival.
Note as well that unlike the sullen Batman, the Joker is perpetually happy. He is constantly laughing. And he gains massive amounts of pleasure not only from the pain that he inflicts on others, but also from the way he lives his life in general. His nihilism brings him great joy. In fact, even when he is caught or imprisoned, the Joker is still laughing and joyous. The punishment against him does almost nothing to minimize the pleasure that he takes in living the way he does.
So, how do all these points undermine atheism and support the claim that a god exists?
Because, if atheistic-naturalism is true, then the Joker, not Batman, is the rational one. Or, at the very least, the Joker is no less rational than Batman is.
Indeed, consider the following. Batman pursues justice, even though there is no real justice to be had on atheism, either in this life or the next. Batman has a moral code that restricts him and minimizes what he can do, even though, on atheism, his moral code is no more objectively valid than the Joker’s. And Batman suffers, is psychologically broken, and endures great pain for what is, on atheism, an ultimately meaningless mission. By contrast, the Joker is not sad or pained, but endlessly happy. No matter what happens, his life is a life full of personal pleasure and the fulfilling of the desires that he wants to fulfill. And he has no moral code to restrict him from acting as he wishes. Consequently, on atheistic-naturalism, it is the Joker’s way of life that is better and more rational, or at least as good and as rational, as Batman’s way of life is.
And yet, we all know that it is utterly absurd to claim that the Joker’s way of life is either better and more rational, or even equal to, Batman’s way of life. Indeed, it is absolutely obvious that what Batman does, and what Batman has dedicated his life to, is better, more rational, more meaningful, and more praiseworthy than what the Joker does.
And so, we can formulate the above point into a more formal argument:
Premise 1: If atheistic-naturalism is true, then the Joker’s way of life is better and/or more rational, or at least as good and/or as rational, and just as meaningful, as Batman’s way of life is.
Premise 2: But the Joker’s way of life is not better or more rational than Batman’s way of life. Nor is it just as good or as rational, or as meaningful, as Batman’s way of life. And it is clearly absurd to claim that it is.
Conclusion 1: Therefore, atheistic-naturalism is false.
Conclusion 2: But if atheistic-naturalism is false, and remember, this is the only form of atheism that we are considering as being viable, then its opposite, namely theism, is true. Thus, at least one god exists.
And so, this simple but powerful argument from absurdity is how the idea of Batman can be used to dismantle atheism, and to support theism over atheistic-naturalism.
Non Nobis Christus, Non Nobis, Sed Nomini Tuo Da Gloriam
Written: 12 May 2019
References / Links:
1 Norkey, Trevor (author). “DC Confirms Batman Is an Atheist” (title). 2018 Aug 17 (posted); 2019 May 12 (accessed). http://www.movieweb.com/batman-atheist-dc-comics/ (link). In MovieWeb (website); http://www.movieweb.com (link). — Berlatsky, Noah (author). “Holy atheism, Batman! Why superheros might not believe in God” (title). 2018 Aug 21 (posted); 2019 May 12 (accessed). http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/acts-of-faith/wp/2018/08/21/holy-atheism-batman-why-superheroes-might-not-believe-in-god/?noredirect=on&utm_term =.a5d11ce103bd (link). In The Washington Post (website); http://www.washingtonpost.com (link). — Stauffer, Derek (author). “Batman is An Atheist, DC Comics Confirms” (title). 2018 Aug 15 (posted); 2019 May 12 (accessed). http://www.screenrant.com/batman-atheist-dc-comics/ (link). In Screen Rant (website); http://www.screenrant.com (link).