By Professional Citizen | 24 October 2015
God does not exist. However, let’s grant for a moment that God is real. Religious texts and practices show that God is wicked, cruel, and immoral, and totally unworthy of affection by moral human beings.
For the sake of brevity, we’ll exclusively consider the God of the New Testament, and ignore the God of the Old Testament, Koran, and other books. This God is often portrayed as hip, cool, and loving. If we dig deeper into some of the basic tenets of Christianity held by mainstream Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox churches, we’ll see that it’s an elaborate smoke screen. The God of the New Testament is a beast.
The Problem of Evil
Christian churches usually portray God as all powerful, all knowing, and all benevolent. Long ago, freethinkers discovered the silver bullet to prove that God is not a moral agent. The problem of evil, in its simplest form, goes like this, “If God is good, why does he let evil exist in the world?”
Some Christian apologists sidestep this argument by simply conceding that God is not all powerful, or all knowing, or all benevolent, or any combination of the three. Any one of these three concessions is in itself a strong argument why God does not deserve our worship.
But following the standard Christian line that God is powerful, can see all, and loves everyone, the problem of evil should make every believer reconsider his or her faith. Allowing suffering to occur, although not as wicked as actually inflicting the suffering, is still an evil.
It’s difficult for us to account for this in our daily lives because human morality is infinitely complicated by the fact that we do not have infinite resources. Choosing to help one person or group over another person or group, and by how much, is an extremely challenging moral decision. It is vastly complicated by the fact that we cannot see the future and we don’t know what the results of our actions will be.
If we had limitless resources and perfect knowledge of the consequences of our decisions, however, we would have a clear moral imperative to start correcting the world’s ills. Granted, not everyone agrees on what a perfect world should look like, but surely we can all agree to strike murder, rape, starvation, and war from the table. God, on the other hand, is content to let these evils continue to ravage humanity. That makes him partially responsible for them, and that should disgust us.
The Vanity of Worship
If a man did something nice for you and then insisted you kneel and worship him regularly for the rest of your life, would you have any respect for that man? Even if he paid you the ultimate favor of saving your life, would that earn him eternal supplications? It certainly wouldn’t be moral for him to make that demand, or accept the worship.
You’d think that an entity as powerful as God would be above petty requests like this. It’s incredibly vain. As bad as this is, however, God manages to escalate it to wildly absurd levels. The New Testament repeatedly reminds us that the punishment for failing to entertain God’s vanity is eternal damnation. It’s not enough for God to puff up his feathers and make narcissistic demands on our behavior; he has to threaten us with unending torture if we don’t.
Reasoning people know that Hell is fictional, but for the sake of argument let’s grant its existence. If the Hell narrative is true, then yes, it is totally rational to bow down to the patronizing spirit in the sky. But if this is true, please do not claim that God is good. If this is true, God is nothing more than a gangster extorting “protection fees.” He’s Kim Jong Un sending people to the gulag for not publicly revering him. He is a vile thug, deserving our contempt.
Many Christians today reject this particular aspect of Christianity and do not seriously believe that decent non-Christians will burn in Hell (of course, we all know that millions of people do believe this repulsive proposition). We can applaud their evolution, but we can’t pretend that the New Testament doesn’t make this threat.
Most Christians pray. Prayer comes in many forms, and one of the more common is to pray for something. “God, I pray for peace on Earth. I pray for my sick Aunt Suzy to recover.” More selfishly, “God, I pray for a better job. I pray to win the lottery.” A basic review of day-to-day reality shows that these prayers are never fulfilled (or at least not with any greater frequency than basic, everyday chance).
And yet, people wouldn’t make these requests unless they had some expectation that they might be fulfilled. What does that say about God, if he could actually be swayed by prayers? It would be reprehensible behavior to grant and withhold benefits based on the number of prayers issued for each request. Why is dear Aunt Suzy more worthy of divine intervention, simply because she has lots of Christian friends, than someone who is friends mostly with non-Christians?
Granted, maybe God thinks all these prayers are ridiculous. If so, it would be polite of him to simply inform us that our prayers are vain and we’d be better off focusing on real solutions to our problems. If he doesn’t have the time to inform every believer individually, he could at the very least tell his clergy members to stop encouraging the practice in their congregations.
The Dehumanization of the Cross
The most offensive aspect of the New Testament God is his attempt to strip us of the most important thing of all – our humanity.
The primary quality distinguishing us from every other known living creature is our awareness of our own consciousness and decision making. This awareness is what makes us responsible for our actions. When we make unethical decisions, we are held accountable for them, either by formal punishment, social pressures, or simply inner turmoil. These stresses are an important part of what pushes us to consider the ethical implications of our decisions, and to eventually improve ourselves. It’s a heavy burden, but it’s what makes us human.
God wants to take that away from us. He wants us to recognize Jesus Christ as our savior and thereby transfer responsibility for our sins to him. We never have to improve ourselves morally in the here and now because, according to the New Testament, our sins were paid for two thousand years ago when a man got nailed to a cross. Moral behavior is merely a recommendation, because salvation awaits us the moment we confess our belief in Jesus (and, perhaps, follow the arbitrary guidelines set by whichever denomination we choose).
Moral responsibility is non-transferable. We should be outright disdainful of any deity that asks us to bargain away our autonomy.
What Does This Have to Do With Politics?
Politics is inseparable from morality, and politics and religion in America are tightly interwoven. Promoting secularism, atheism, and agnosticism are valuable ways to enhance both the moral and political health of our country. Pointing out that God is not good is a useful first step toward showing believers that God does not, in fact, exist.
Stephen Fry on God
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