JR'S Free Thought Pages
The Underachieving Christian God
Thoughts on the Deadbeat Dad of the Universe
“Life is full of misery, loneliness, and suffering; and it's all over much too soon” – Woody Allen
“The optimist believes we live in the best of all possible worlds. The pessimist fears this is true.”
“Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. What does that say about God?”
Note to Reader: Footnotes are indicated by * and immediately follow the paragraph in which they are located.
Why Religion exists:
Four reasons are commonly given to explain why religion exists and continues to thrive. One is that it provides facile answers to fundamental questions about the origin of the universe, the way it works, the currently mysterious or inexplicable things that happen in it - and why it includes evil and suffering. Another is that religion provides comfort and solace, giving hope of life after death, providing reassurance in a hostile world, and a means by prayer, sacrifice and conformity to one or another form of prescribed behavior, either ritualistic or moral to live more secure and successful life. A third is that it makes for social order and a mechanism for control by those holding political power, thus promoting morality and social cohesion. And a fourth is that it rests on the natural ignorance, stupidity, superstition, credulity and intellectual sloth of mankind.
Is the Existence of God Even Plausible?
The dispute about whether god exists, like so many in philosophy, depends on the mistaken assumption that there is a clearly defined concept (in this case “God”) that can be used to formulate a question with a definite answer. Arguing whether certain things do or do not exist is pointless when the relevant notion of existence in question is so ill defined. I submit that the question concerning the truth or falsity of the assertion “God exists” is just one of those essentially empty questions that has an aura of profundity like “Why is there anything at all?” or “What is the speed of time?” Perhaps vague opaque definitions of these invented deities are intentional in order to inoculate them from any serious criticism.
Problems with defining god notwithstanding, proofs for the existence of god over the past two millennia have been abysmal failures. Philosophers have soundly refuted all attempts. Others have tried to take it a step further and prove the non-existence of god - but anyone who has taken a course in Logic 101 knows the impossibility of proving a universal negative. One cannot prove the non-existence of anything and that includes Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy or the Invisible Flying Pink Unicorn. There are however moral arguments and arguments of incoherence that make the likelihood of the existence of certain kinds of gods extremely unlikely – for example, the sort of personal god posited by Islam and Christianity – a god who is omnipotent, omniscient and who loves us in the way I love my children and my cat. It is more difficult, however, to disprove the kind of god who closely resembles a malevolent government bureaucrat with a bad attitude. Over 2000 years ago Epicurus pointed out the inconsistencies inherent in a God who has the power to repair the ills of the world but fails to do so.
Subsequently, many other philosophers have exposed the inconsistencies of the attributes of such a god depicted in the Koran and Bible in conjunction with the evil and suffering in the world. The Epicurean analysis does show, along with the evidence of our own senses and intellect, that there is no evidence for a powerful, knowing and benevolent god. Instead, the evidence is totally consistent with the lack of such a being. That does not disprove such a god’s existence, but it comes close enough for many of us. The Bible, in particular, is plagued by internal inconsistencies that are compelling evidence it was not written by a perfect being. More interesting than whether religion is true is whether it is useful. Has it been, on the whole, a force for Good or Evil in the world? In my view religion’s utility is far more amenable to investigation than it is to its truth. When I confront religious people, particularly those who lean toward fundamentalism, I try to point out how their religious leader’s emphasis on obedience to God rather than ethical behavior leads only to an attitude of prudence, not morality. I think Bertrand Russell was correct when he argued that religion was based on fear and not the desire to do good works.
In a final utilitarian analysis I suppose, it really makes no difference to anyone whether people believe in god or the invisible flying pink unicorn. We only care about how they behave as a result of such beliefs. Although we may be appalled at a person’s lack of intellectual integrity in accepting propositions based on faith, when we argue against religious belief it ought to be because we feel that, on balance, it is destructive. On that basis I think our case is extremely compelling. It benefits no one to stretch arguments for the non-existence of god beyond their breaking point. The total lack of evidence for the existence for such entities should be sufficient for an agnostic stance at the very least.
Suppose someone claims there is a planet revolving around Alpha Centauri inhabited by purple skinned hermaphrodites who dress like golfers in drag, that Stephen Harper’s* brain is controlled by fascist aliens from Neptune, that there is an invisible Supreme Being living somewhere in the Cosmos who created the Universe and everything in it and the King James Bible is the word of God. Some of you may be surprised to know that none of these claims can be proven false. Many religious arguments invoke this claim (“You can’t prove that it’s not true”) which to anyone with a freshman course in logic realizes is vacuous. In addition to the logical hurdle, they all violate the eminent philosopher of science Karl Popper’s criterion (his demarcation between science and pseudoscience) called the falsifiability thesis.
*Stephen Harper: arrogant regressive reactionary free market dogmatist tyrannical Bush loving war mongering union bashing Medicare trashing self-righteous elitist autocratic corporatist Christian Conservative Prime Minister of Canada (just kidding).
If “you can’t prove it false” was the standard for rational belief there would be precious little prior intellectual constraint on beliefs that can’t be decided by sheer reason or the intellect alone. On the other hand, many of us reject these hypotheses because we think there is no argument or evidence in their favor and conflict with our past experience and scientific understanding. William James notwithstanding, we need to make it clear that in many cases the fact that there is no evidence for a claim is itself an argument against it; for example, claims for which there almost certainly would be evidence were they true ("At the time of the dinosaurs, highly intelligent homo sapiens were as plentiful as pterodactyls"). But we don't need to fill in all such blanks for our purposes. A more serious concern is James's use of the definite article in "the intellect." That suggests he wants to limit his claim to doctrines for which there can be no conclusive evidence or argument. But if we're trying to provide advice to real people, that's too restrictive. People differ in their intellectual talent and training; that is, we differ in what we can decide by our intellects alone. Certain facts about advanced calculus or probability theory are examples. We need to decide what, if anything, we have a right to believe about issues that exceed our capacity to decide. Most of us are in this position in relation to some beliefs - we are not authorities or experts in the appropriate field of inquiry, the experts disagree, and our indirect criteria are indecisive. In addition, we may not have the talent to become experts. What, if anything, do we have a right to believe in such cases?
Criteria for Belief and the Intellectual Poverty of Faith:
Consider the following criteria for belief: (1) there are no strong arguments or arguments at all against it and, (2) the arguments for or against it are about equally strong (this scenario is not only uncommon but the probabilities involved are next to impossible to calculate).
With or without these refinements, criteria (1) and (2) do place prior intellectual constraints on non-evidentially based beliefs. Although the Alpha Centauri hypothesis remains an option, the belief that the King James Version of the Bible is written by God does not. It fails the first criterion, since we have historical and linguistic reasons against taking the King James Version to be God's own truth. The first criterion also rules out many other faith-based beliefs for the same reason. These include one of the most important doctrines of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, namely, that God is ultimate perfection (that is, that God is both all-good, all-knowing and all-powerful). For anyone who looks at the world objectively and not through rose tinted spectacles, this doctrine conflicts dramatically with the way the world actually is. On the face of it, God's work (his "creation") is clearly not the work of an omnibenevolent, all-powerful being because any God worthy of such a resume would want the best for his creation. If God were omnipotent, he could make it all happen for the best and therefore, one would expect an all-good all-powerful creator to produce the best of all possible worlds. But ours has countless imperfections that could be either eliminated or improved upon. Why, for example, does it hurt so much when we break a limb? Of course, the pain has a purpose. It keeps us from moving the limb, which prevents further injury and promotes healing. But surely there are less painful ways to do that. One-tenth the pain would work just fine. And why does there need to be any pain at all? That is, why didn't God design our limbs so that they were simply temporarily paralyzed when broken (and temporally restored to mobility when absolutely necessary)? There are endless alternatives. For that matter, why did he design limbs that are so easy to break in the first place and that take so long to heal? Why can't we heal in a matter of hours and simply regenerate severed limbs the way a salamander regenerates his severed tail? Once we start thinking this way, it's obvious that the problem is bigger than limbs. Why is there so much gratuitous evil and suffering in the world? Why aren't our eyes and ears more sensitive? Why does our hearing and eyesight fail with age? Why did God design Siamese twin babies or babies with horrible genetic defects like Tay-Sachs syndrome? What about ALS, MS and cancer? What about our short life span and bodies and intellects that slowly wither away and fail us in our wretched winter years. Or, to broaden our concern, why is there so much pain and carnage in the animal world? Why do we need to kill innocent animals to provide us with protein? Why did God design a nature red in tooth and claw? Why all those terrified prey desperately and futilely thrashing about in the jaws of predators? Why all the panicky little fish continually chased and eaten by big fish? Surely God could have limited the animal world to herbivores. And finally, why did he make so many humans so incredibly credulous and stupid?
All theologians agree that these are strong arguments. They have labored to answer them with their sterile rhetoric and labored apologetics for nearly two millennia, and they're still going at it. In philosophical circles, this exercise in sophistry is called theodicy.* Not surprisingly, their agonizing apologetics and twisted logic have never managed to convince religious skeptics or adherents to competing religious traditions. What would the Greeks, Romans and Vikings who believed in Gods such as Thor, Zeus and Odin, deities who are no longer believed in, think of these special pleadings? It's not surprising they have no effect – their arguments even barely manage to convince believers. Surely anyone with even a brain stem must wonder about not only the veracity but even the plausibility of their faith, given the last 400 years of Enlightenment philosophy and Scientific advancements that still continues to erode any remnant of credibility to religious claims. The question of natural evil arises anew for believers with every drought, senseless war, tsunami and every stillborn child. How can God allow that to happen? Did God really instruct George Bush to launch the War in Iraq? Of course, “natural” catastrophes (not the ones ostensibly instigated by God via politicians and religious clerics) are consequences of the laws of science, but according to the Pope, God is alleged to have designed the laws of science as well, including Darwin’s theory. In the end, most believers fall back on the pious palliative that God works in “mysterious ways.”** Our imperfect finite minds are incapable of understanding his infinite intellect. This conflict between reason and faith is settled simply by new affirmations of faith; that is, by choosing to believe something else without evidence. It’s an endless vicious cycle of perverted circuitous logic. As Bertrand Russell once said, “Most people choose comfort over truth.” He lamented that “there is something feeble and contemptible about a man who cannot face the perils of life without the help of comfortable myths.”
* One of the most convincing arguments for the refutation of religions that posit an omnipotent, omniscient omnibenevolent God is based on a simple inductive inference. The British philosopher John L. Mackie in his book The Miracle of Theism presents a convincing case for atheism based on the huge volume of gratuitous evil in the world. In the book he cites several examples of such evil but his primary example is the Spanish Influenza outbreak of 1919. This virus killed 20 million people over the short period of three months – twice as many as were killed in World War I. But just as quickly as it appeared, the virus mysteriously disappeared and its virulence has never reappeared. How could a perfectly good all-powerful God allow this to happen? Is God not really omnipotent or is he merely an ominous evil alien or devil incarnate? Over the years Christian apologists have gone to great lengths to refute arguments such as these but have failed miserably. Their best response has been “it’s just a mystery” and “God has his reasons and we must just have faith in Him”. Now if I were to attempt to argue that the mole problem in my back yard is the work of evil invisible purple goblins and present as evidence “it’s just a mystery” and “just accept my word on faith” I would likely be denounced as the village idiot. Similar examples can be cited from everyday experience such as verdicts on jury trials where no empirical evidence is presented - only faith based explanations. The theist might argue that God’s failure to prevent gratuitous evil is based on creating some greater good. For example, the pain of a vaccination and chemotherapy are a means to some potential greater good. Hence if God exists we surely must have substantive evidence that all the evils in the world are a means to some greater good. The theist may continue with the same line of reasoning by declaring “there may be some greater good that we have no way of knowing about”. Well of course many things are logically possible, but are they even remotely probable. It’s possible that Elvis is alive and well dancing the Twist to “Jailhouse Rock” on the rings of Saturn. But to ask someone to accept such a proposition based on faith or the fact that Elvis works in mysterious ways simply will not do.
** Anytime something good happens, it’s God’s will and a reward for good behavior; anytime something bad happens, it’s the work of the Devil or part of God’s larger plan, and even though you may not understand the longer term benefits, these will become evident in due time. Either way it’s a neat and tidy theistic world-view – everything has its place and its purpose according to God’s grand design. It’s so embarrassing and disgraceful when a natural disaster strikes and those who survive thank the Lord for their survival on national television. But what of those who were not so fortunate? Many professional athletes, particularly baseball and football players are notorious in thanking Jesus for their victories. I wonder what this says about the team that lost the game. More recently we see professional baseball players, particularly those Latin Americans brought up on a steady diet of Catholicism from the time they pop out of the womb, who point to the “heavens” every time they hit a home run. Oddly, they don't perform this ceremony when the strike out, go 0 for 5 at the plate, fumble a fly ball or screw up a routine double play?
The Ethics of Belief:
The main downside of non-evidentially based belief is the unjust harm it can bring to others. As W. K. Clifford, in The Ethics of Belief stated, we ought to at the very least suspend judgment or remain agnostic on beliefs that satisfy criterion (2). Clifford argued quite convincingly that a flourishing, honest and honourable civilized society depends upon the habit of forming only justified beliefs. Credulity, the propensity to hold unjustified beliefs, he asserts, threatens the very foundations of society - "the credulous man”, he tells us, “is the father to the liar and the cheat." He ultimately concluded, "It is wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone, to believe anything on insufficient evidence."* Suppose someone wants to hold to the belief that God has instructed them through scripture to kill all adulterers, Mormons, and homosexuals by 11/11/2011. Since there are no strong arguments for or against what God commands, this can't be settled by the intellect alone. But that doesn't give anyone a right to believe it, even if he calls it a faith-based belief. Most faith-based believers I hope recognize this and constrain their faith by their six day a week rational faculties and secular moral norms. But many are astonishingly audacious in the privilege they claim for themselves. "Because I choose to believe something without any evidence at all, you, Ralph, cannot have sex with another man!" Or worse, "Because I choose to believe something without any evidence at all, every Arab must be driven from the Holy Land!" Despite what some of them say, most religious people don't base most of their religious beliefs on faith alone. When challenged or when evangelizing they concoct dubious philosophical arguments, look for archeological evidence, inspire each other with testimonials or appeal to their own personal experience of others and so on. One could discuss this ad infinitum. The topic of religion inevitably arises because faith-based belief is by far the most widespread example of non-evidentially based belief.
*According to Clifford there are normative imperatives for proper belief formation just as there are normative requirements for control of our actions. These imperatives might be deemed duties to oneself - moral action done in accordance with beliefs formed for good reasons and not merely prudential or self-serving reasons. An action is not considered moral if done unintentionally or for self-interested reasons. Beliefs affect actions in so far as they embody expectations about what the results of these actions will or would be. Although our democratic freedoms of thought and expression prohibit it, Clifford might be thinking of why we punish a person for his irrational behaviour, yet do not punish him for his irrational beliefs. If certain things are believed to be true, it is considered rational to act in a certain way, but thinking and action are considered mutually exclusive entities by our system of justice. One can believe what one wants provided it does not spill over into harmful action. The sordid corporate corruption and malfeasance we witnessed in the Enron case, the case of Conrad Black and endless other examples of corporate corruption - and what we are witnessing now on a daily basis during the current economic meltdown are serious legal and ethical violations because they were motivated by selfishness, duplicity and self-deception (unmitigated greed, lies and false beliefs about others and oneself). One of the few eminent US Presidential candidates in the past 60 years who possessed a first rate intellect, Adlai Stevenson, once said "we judge others by their acts, but we judge ourselves by our motives." For example, a person would be judged a saint for saving a drowning child even if his private motive for doing so was to engage in some aerobic exercise. But if Enron had not collapsed, the corrupt CEO Kenneth Lay, as Clifford argued, would still be guilty because of his contemptible motives. (This passage is adapted from my MA dissertation in philosophy titled Constructive Skepticism, Critical Thinking and the Ethics of Belief).
Surely Rationality doesn’t need to be defended?
Whether a person is religious or secular, surely there is nothing more indispensable than the rules of logic, facts, arguments and evidence that lead us to the truth. It's far beyond the time we accept the principle that the only thing that allows human beings to collaborate and cooperate in a genuinely open-ended manner is their rationality and willingness to have their beliefs modified by new facts, evidence and argument. This spirit of mutual rationality and inquiry is the basis of the scientific temper and the very antithesis of faith. It’s the only path to the possibility of a civilized society. God exists or he does not; Jesus Christ was born of a virgin and resurrected from death, or he was not; Allah is the true God or he is not; Angels exists or they do not. Faith is a conversation stopper, impervious to any rational discourse.
It’s time that sensible human beings agreed on the standards of evidence necessary to substantiate truth-claims of this sort. The effort of fundamentalist Christian groups to have Creationism accepted in high school biology classes is a case in point. In Louisiana public schools twenty years ago the issue of Creationism was ultimately taken to the U. S. Supreme Court and was rejected as nothing more than religious dogma in the case of Edwards v. Aguillard. The issue is not, as Creationism (now recast as Intelligent Design) advocates allege, whether science can "rule out" the existence of the biblical God. That no one can prove the non-existence of anything is a fundamental tenet in any freshman course in logic. Creationism simply does not meet even minimal standards of a scientific hypothesis and there are countless numbers of other ludicrous ideas as well that science cannot "rule out," but which no person of sound mind would entertain. Just as the Big Bang neither proved nor disproved the existence of God, so too evolution as a natural process is independent of one's religious beliefs. The absence of explicit evidence for "intelligent design", which certainly seems to be the case, is no more a proof that God does not exist than the Big Bang implies that the biblical account in Genesis is true. Biology without evolution is like physics without gravitation and it is difficult to understand why evolutionary theory which has been studied intensively for over 150 years now and with massive volumes of evidence in support of it, elicits so much mindless resistance and controversy from organized religion. With the work in genetics for the past sixty years, the evidence is overwhelming. The resistance to Evolution by religious zealots is as rabid today as was the opposition to Copernicus and Galileo's heliocentric theory centuries ago. The Roman Catholic Church in 1992 finally apologized for the persecution of Galileo and officially accepted the heliocentric theory, some 350 agonizing years after its formulation. The New York Times reported that the Church had finally admitted Galileo was right and the earth did revolve around the sun. Others proclaimed that the Church had surrendered in the alleged war between faith and science. Religion dies hard.
In North American society scientists, skeptics and humanists are outnumbered at least ten to one by people who call themselves Christian. We see them by the hundreds on television programs chanting with arms swinging wildly toward the sky while the pastor rants and raves about the evils of secular humanism, stem cell research, teaching evolution in the science class, the debauchery of homosexuality and the immorality of abortion or voluntary assisted suicide. Strangely however, one thing these televangelists all have in common: they need lots of money and they need it now! Religion these days is a business, big business.The government under the George W. Bush administration has been an example of a thoroughly immoral entity of excessive religiosity at its worst and an egregious violation of the first amendment of the US constitution. Everywhere one sees blatant dishonesty, even criminality with the theft of public resources abetted by cronyism and influence peddling and a raw appeal to white-power bigotry and greed in all aspect of government operations. In short, capitalism as the piracy by selected elites operating at the expense of justice and democracy, and justified to the public with appeals to the irrational: be afraid, relapse into bigotry and blind faith in your leaders, plunge into greed and fear of material loss, resort to a mutated hypocritical Christianity, but above all don't question authority, think critically or be skeptical, don’t criticize and especially don't express dissent toward self-serving power. Capitalism has never endorsed the spirit of Christ's vision in the Sermon on the Mount nor does it feel constrained by any secular moral imperative such as Kant's Enlightenment ethic of treating people as ends rather than means. It doesn't even stoop to believe in the tenets of Utilitarianism's, the notion of "the greatest good for the greatest number". This would interfere with maximization of profit and shareholder value. Capitalists do not even make a feeble effort to operate under any basic conditions of moral culture unless it's a marketing ploy to have the consuming public perceive them as philanthropic. One such prominent company donated $1.5 million to a charity and then spent $25 million advertising the fact. And organized religion these days is nothing more than an appendage of the same sordid corporate culture of greed and power.
Religious clerics, popes, mullahs, politicians, business leaders, bosses and others who hold power over others are incessantly appealing to their subordinates, acolytes and the masses to have faith in them. Faith - it’s all so intellectually humiliating and debilitating – and can be hazardous to your economic and physical well being. You might want to have “trust” in someone, given prior sufficient evidence that supports it, but to have carte blanche faith? Not a good idea.
In spite of the diatribes and ravings of televangelists, the enemy of Christianity is not Humanism or Science, but competing belief systems, including other mainstream religions, New Age cults, Scientology, eastern mysticism and other paranormal, supernatural beliefs. In a recent Gallup Poll it was found that more people believe in astrology than believe in evolution, 90% believe in heaven, 79% believe in miracles and 73% believe in hell. The humanist publication, Skeptic Magazine, for example, with its circulation of 40,000, would probably fit into this minority category. When compared to various religious publications whose circulation numbers run well into the hundreds of thousands or even millions, the voice of secular humanism is but a mere whisper in the wilderness.
The Deadbeat Dad of the Universe
God’s Report Card: Design Engineering: “F”
Effort: “U” for Unsatisfactory and Useless
Barring early death from birth defects, genetic propensities, congenital diseases or other natural afflictions or catastrophic disasters, you create human beings who must live an incredibly short life span of approximately 80 years (why not 8000?) and give us a body that slowly begins to break down and deteriorate after approximately 20 years until it ultimately wastes away from some odious disease. Perhaps God you are a turtle, since some turtles have been known to live for 250 years.
Some discomforting questions for you incumbent Big Guy…..
Why did you create human beings with a propensity to competition, greed, irrationality and violence who must thrive in a highly competitive natural environment of scarcity, uncertainty and contingency resulting in poverty, starvation, destruction, humiliation, injury and deaths of millions due to disease, drought, floods, hurricanes, utopian schemes like capitalism and communism, stupidity, wars and other predatory animals? Rather than behaving like the Dead Beat Dad of the Universe, why not create a stable predictable environment amenable to humans who live long healthy lives with continuous physical and intellectual vitality, who can choose the time of their death and who are sharing, caring and compassionate? Why did you appear before a favored individual in a vision, provide only to him special instructions and hope that he passes it on to others accurately and does not take liberties with the privileged information? Rather than behaving like the Dead Beat Dad of the Universe, why didn’t you appear physically before your flock and advise them directly, thereby proving your existence beyond any reasonable doubt while at the same time ensuring that they all reliably receive the correct message. Like an irresponsible ambivalent Dead Beat Dad of the Universe, you use an earthly messenger to inform them once and disappear forever – why not make regular appearances to reinforce belief, thus replacing the need for the irrationalities of blind faith? Like The Dead Beat Dad of the Universe, you sit back as a dispassionate uncaring spectator and witness earthly chaos, stupidity, pain, devastation - and rap music. Why not responsibly intervene frequently with some timely advice and action? You Mr. God promise justice, salvation and eternal bliss in heaven in an afterlife. Your only criterion for entry into this amorphous heaven is to suspend your intellectual faculties and resort to blind faith in the existence of A Dead Beat Dad of the Universe for which there is not a shred of evidence. Would not having lived an exemplary moral life be sufficient for entry into your Valhalla? Why not provide a heaven on earth? Why the bribes? Your behavior is more like a Drug Lord, a Mafia Don or Investment Banker.
As I have outlined in the previous section, if anyone who examines this insignificant planet objectively within the context of an expanding seemingly infinite Universe there’s only one conclusion that can be inferred. God is a pathetic underachiever. Woody Allen, who had some extremely humorous and derisive remarks about God, made such a comment in his brilliant movie Love and Death. Such an observation seems ironical, if not paradoxical, for an allegedly omnipotent omniscient Supreme Being. It that’s the best you can do, says George Carlin, “I’m not impressed.” Carlin goes on to say in the same satirical routine, that God’s behavior is more akin to “an office temp with a bad attitude” than an all-powerful all-knowing benevolent Deity. “This is not good work,” George tells us. We’re told in Genesis that it only took six days to create this chaos, clutter and enormous waste of real estate called The Universe, that he was satisfied with his work but had to rest on the seventh - perplexing behavior for an omnipotent being. Perhaps he was overwhelmed by too much egoism and self-esteem and far too self-satisfied by his “work.” Can anyone think of anything of enduring value that took only six days to create?
Christians never tire of telling us that God loves us – as does his God-Man son who we’re also informed, loves us and “died for our sins.”* Huh – what love? What sins? Unbelievers are informed they will burn for eternity in a nasty place called Hell. You’re either with me or against me. Believe or Burn! Thanks for the plethora of choices Mr. Sky Daddy. No gray areas or compromises for the law and order Big Guy. What sense of justice is this - for merely not believing in something for which we are provided not even a morsel of evidence? By the way, I’ll be responsible for my own ethical indiscretions thank you very much. And yes, God loves us? If you take off your rose tinted spectacles even for five minutes, study some history and observe the world as it is today, surely there’s only one conclusion: God doesn’t give a damn and never has! The disparity between God's alleged perfection and the imperfection of the Universe is vividly obvious to anyone who even rations their intellect to reading the local newspaper or watching the nightly television news. In spite of a Universe that generates endless natural disasters, gratuitous misery, torment and pain in the form of deadly tsunamis, hurricanes endless senseless wars, cancer cells, nasty genetic characteristics that produce deadly illnesses and a life that is “solitary, nasty, brutish and short” (thank you Thomas Hobbes) - and Dick Cheney – we are told by the pious that we live in the best of all possible worlds. That’s because the designer was a perfectly loving fellow, that Munificent Dictator in the Sky called “God”. Say what?
*Sin is a distinctively religious notion and, not unlike many other Christian doctrines, is a vehicle of control. Sin, in particular, is a convenient construct designed to induce guilt and shame in the believer thereby creating a problem that demands a solution. The solution is of course well known. It involves relinquishing one's intellectual autonomy and self-esteem to a palliative called "accepting Christ as your personal savior" and subsequently joining the Church in order to escape eternal damnation. Eric Hoffer described this phenomenon aptly in his fascinating book The True Believer:
“Self-surrender, which is...the source of a mass movement’s unity and vigor, is a sacrifice, an act of atonement, and clearly no atonement is called for unless there is a poignant sense of sin. Here as elsewhere, the technique of a mass movement aims to infect people with a malady and then offer the movement as a cure”. (1951, p. 42)
I propose we democratize God’s tyrannical universe and hold an election with a genuine choice of candidates, and not like the sham and façade called “democracy” we suffer under today whereby we are granted the privilege of selecting among 2 or 3 multi-millionaire business tycoons. Of course we are informed by them and their complicit right wing corporate media that these candidates are champions of the “working man” Yeah right? That’s about as believable as a loving God or that George W Bush is intelligent. Even better would be an anarchist community with No Gods and No Masters. Abolish all hierarchical systems of power and create small scale communities where genuine face to face democracy has an opportunity to thrive. What we suffer under today is not even remotely a democracy, but an oligarchy of wealthy and powerful corporate lobbies that finance the election of their chosen candidates and manipulate their elected politicians like a puppet show. There is no longer any party in either Canada (the NDP sold out to conservatism years ago) or the United States that represents either the middle or working class. In the United States the two dominant corporatist conservative parties are, from the perspective of the working classes, indistinguishable.
Here’s my proposal for those who believe there is such an entity called “God”. We need a revolt of the masses, a bloodless democratic coup to replace the tyrant in Heaven. It’s called an election, with real candidates, not just oligarchs and potential marionettes. Let’s give the resident underachieving uncaring deity his pink slip and consider this option. I humbly submit….
A resume for the position of Supreme Being of the Universe:
“A man's ethical behavior should be based effectually on sympathy, education, and social ties and needs; no religious basis is necessary. Man would indeed be in a poor way if he had to be restrained by fear of punishment and hope of reward after death.” – Albert Einstein
"One of the reasons a morally serious person must reject Christianity is this: in return for your coerced confession to a crime you could not possibly have committed, it offers you absolution for all the crimes that you actually have committed" - Christopher Hitchens
Forget the “thou shalt” and “thou shalt nots” of the Ten Commandments*. Only two of them have anything remotely to do with ethics anyway. Morality is a personal matter, a matter of individual reflection and conscience, not a command, bribe or system of rewards and punishments trotted out by a self-absorbed malevolent celestial dictator with a shitty attitude. Don’t confuse morality with prudence.
* Socrates asks, “Are morally good acts willed by God because they are morally good, or are they morally good because they are willed by God?” Think about that one for a minute folks. If an act is deemed moral because God commands it then, for example, “stoning a woman to death for adultery” is justifiable (no punishment for men for the same offence of course). But if God commands it because it’s moral, who needs the Big Guy?
Notwithstanding their inconsistencies, contradictions and absurdities, I have never considered any of the so-called sacred texts, including the Bible (ironically referred to by the devout as the “good book”), to be anything remotely resembling a reliable guide to moral behavior from either the perspective of its moral imperatives or vague underlying philosophical foundations. In fact it can be quite easily revealed from a cursory reading of the Bible that divine command ethics is purely a matter of prudence based on a system of reward, punishment and fear of an egotistical, insecure and vindictive God. In fact it is quite effortless to criticize the morality one finds in the Bible since most of it is simply repellent, odious and incompatible with an enlightened civil society.
Anyone who thinks the Bible or the Koran is sound as a moral guide ought to read them a little more judiciously. Even the Ten Commandments that evangelicals in the United States insist on being posted in every public venue have precious little to do with ethics. In my view only two of them really even remotely fall within the purview of the ethical realm. In spite of all this the illusion lives on – and politicians, the corporate media and other influential members of our culture continually appeal to the Pope and other religious leaders for moral guidance.
According to the United Nations’ Human Development Report in 2005, the most atheistic societies - countries like Norway, Iceland, Australia, Canada, Sweden, Switzerland, Belgium, Japan, the Netherlands and Denmark and Finland - are actually the healthiest, as indicated by measures of life expectancy, adult literacy, per-capita income, educational attainment, gender equality, homicide rate, and infant mortality. Conversely, the fifty nations now ranked lowest by the UN in terms of human development are unwaveringly religious.
Imagine a Democratic Universe:
Men rarely if ever have managed to dream up a god superior to them. Most gods have the manners and morals of a spoiled child. -- Robert A. Heinlein
“Imagine there’s no Heaven, no Hell below us.” John Lennon had the right idea. In the new Democratic Universe there will be no childish and brutal punishments such as eternal damnation for simply not believing in the appropriate deity. Nor will there be any infantile “rewards” in the form of some nebulous eternal afterlife involving “72 virgins” or “hanging out with Jesus on Cloud 9”. Who needs such a pay off when you are offered an infinite earthly life? Anyway, who came up with those pitiable enticements – must have been someone in management with an MBA? By the way, of the four logical possibilities involving an afterlife, one without a deity is just as plausible as an afterlife with one or any of the other two alternatives.
The Eleven point Program:
(1) In the Democratic Universe there will be no natural disasters or disease, not even a Robert Mugabe, George W Bush, the common cold or hemorrhoids.
(2) Everyone will live to the minimum age of 5000 years unless you decide to “terminate” yourself before that time. If you want to live beyond that, you have an option for a further 5000.
(3) Anyone initiating a physical confrontation, a war, religion or political party will be condemned to my Hell for eternity in which you will be forced to listen to Christian Rock and Rap music non-stop (just kidding folks – remember there’s no Hell in the New Democratic Universe)
(4) Your body will be in perfect working condition with a million year warranty, free of disease and you will remain youthful and intellectually vibrant, providing for unlimited energy to play as many sports for as long as you want without fatigue. You will be a young adult at birth. You won’t need sleep. All bodily organs will function indefinitely and flawlessly for your chosen life span.
(5) Everyone will be granted a brain with minimum intelligence. No one will be born with an IQ of less than 150. The stork will guarantee that. All your basic physical needs such as food and shelter will be provided by the Big Guy in the Sky.
(6) Anyone denigrating themselves by saluting me, genuflecting, worshipping or praying to me will be sentenced to ten years in my personal house of torment, compelled to listen continuously to the sermons of Peter Popoff, John Hagee and Jimmy Swaggart, George Bush speeches and “This Week in Bible Prophesy “ re-runs non-stop for the entire duration of the sentence. (c’mon can’t you take a joke – remember John Lennon (No Heaven, No Hell). Hey, as your new God I’m just “one of the guys.”
(7) Capitalism, socialism, communism and all other utopian socio-political fantasies are discouraged. With your 150 IQ you will realize as much. Anarchism is encouraged. No Gods, No Masters, No Bosses, No hierarchical authoritative systems! No coercion. There will be a minimum and a maximum income. Everyone will be granted $5 million at birth with a cost of living allowance. Meaningless and mind-numbing work will be non-existent. “Follow your bliss,” as Joseph Campbell urged us to do.
(8) Everyone will have indelibly imprinted on their brains: “Do not do to others you would not do to yourself” and the rule will be followed subconsciously. Consequently political leaders and their ugly wars, religions and their persecutions, police, prosecutions, punishments and coercion of any kind will be rendered superfluous.
(9) No one will need to eat or sleep since fatigue and lack of nourishment will not be required by the body granted you. But if insist on filling your face with pizza and beer and snoozing turns your crank, why the hell not?
(10) All darts, poker, golf and talking heads discussing sports will be banished from TV sports channels. Hey - you call those boring sedentary activities sport? Eat Drink and be Merry!
For further information visit www.Godsucks.com
The Autonomy of Ethics: http://www.skeptic.ca/Autonomy_of_Ethics.htm
Critique and Refutation of Divine Command Morality: http://www.skeptic.ca/Biblical_Ethics.htm
The Impossibility of an Omnipotent and Omniscient God: http://www.skeptic.ca/Impossibility_Arguments_for_God.htm
Freedom From Religion: http://www.skeptic.ca/Athesists_&_Freedom_From_Religion.htm
Moral Consequences of Atheism: http://www.skeptic.ca/Moral_Consequences_of_Atheism.htm
An Intellectual and Ethical Profile of Atheists: http://www.skeptic.ca/Ethical_&_Intellectual_Profile_of_Athesits.htm