Not So Polite Dinner Conversation – speaking for God, a review of a recent God Squad, part 2

Dungeons-Dragons-650x429A few days back I addressed a  recent God Squad column,  where Rabbi Gellman thought to answer some questions that readers had the way he “hopes” that God would answer them.  Many of the answers are standard apologetics and excuses for the Judeo-Christian god.  I thought I’d share why this atheist finds the responses from “God” so unfortunate.  This is part 2.  Part 1 can be found here.

“Q: “God, why do you allow all those awful people to sexually and physically abuse innocent children?” — M., Plainview, NY

A: “My most controversial choice here in heaven was to grant human beings free will to choose good or evil. I did it because you can’t truly love each other or me unless you have free will. However, being free to choose love also means you’re free to choose hate. I wish freedom worked differently, but that’s the way it is. Some days I think I made the wrong choice.””

The free will argument, always a good one to watch fail thanks the purported holy books of the JC theist.  It fails as soon as one realizes as soon as this god interferes once, e.g. in a miracle, then free will is gone because someone’s free will has been usurped.  God had no problem in usurping the Pharaoh’s will, so why the inability to usurp the will of the predator?  We also have the problem that this god says that intent is as bad as action.  Where is the help for the children before anyone is harmed, only the perpetrator punished?  Speaking of pharaohs, I wonder, how was the free will of the first born considered?  They were in a monarchy where the guy in charge was literally considered a god. How is killing them because this god forced its will on the guy in charge allowing them free will?

Q: “God, will I recognize and be reunited in any form with my loved ones who’ve died before me?” — Anonymous, via cyberspace

A: “Yes!””

Well, maybe No! if one believes the bible and Jesus.  When Jesus was asked about the multiple husbands of one wife (no problem in handing a woman from brother to brother), he said that mortal attachments would be meaningless.  I guess it does say “any form” so if you are mindless being doing nothing but praise this god, you can be a bunch of mindless things.  Of course, if those loved ones who died before you didn’t worship in the “right” way, whatever that may be, you may be reunited by watching them on heaven-o-vision, per some Christian apologists who say you will get great satisfaction in seeing sinners suffer.  Or, if C.S. Lewis is right, you’ll forget about them all together.

“Q: “God, if you really exist and are the ultimate creator, then where did you come from and who created you?” — M., via cyberspace

A: “I made everything. Nobody made me. Check out Aristotle. He called me The Unmoved Mover. Aristotle was a very smart guy.””

Ah, the logical fallacy that if someone is smart anything they say is true.  It’s a variation on the appeal to authority.  Another famous figure that theists often invoke is Isaac Newton: Newton came up with the laws of gravitation, so any of his opinions are true.  Newton was also an alchemist, trying to turn lead into gold.  Assuming anything he says is true means that alchemy is as true as his theistic beliefs.  The idea of the Unmoved Mover is not that of the JC god, something that apologists consistently forget to mention, a force of intellect only that cannot interact with the world.  Incidentally, Aristotle thought that the stars were fixed.  They aren’t. This is a good example where it helps to know what someone really said and not what you were told they said.

Thanks to watching the first Cosmos series, we can also know that Aristotle thought slavery was acceptable.

“Q: “God, why must there be conflict between different religions?” — J., via cyberspace

A: “Because everything can be twisted and perverted. When you have the pleasure of understanding Me, nothing can go wrong.””

It does seem likely that most things, if not everything, can be twisted and perverted. Which begs the question, why does this god allow this?  If one believes the claims of the believes, this is a omnipotent, omniscient, and supposedly omnibenevolent being that wants everyone to believe in it.  By definition, it can do anything e.g. all-powerful, include prevent its supposed word from being twisted and perverted.  It either can’t do anything about it, and thus is not omni-everything, or it wants the confusion to exist.  The bible can be cited for evidence that it wants such confusion, that it goes out of its way to allow its archenemy free to cause more confusion *after* this god has killed everyone who didn’t agree with it (Revelation 20-21). There is also the problem of how does one know one has the “pleasure of understanding this god?  Does one believe in one of the believers who claim that they do?  In that we see that they have no special place in this world and that nothing goes especially well for them, we see that things do go wrong for everyone.

“Q: “God, why is there eternal punishment in hell?” — P., via cyberspace

A: “Because evil is not always punished on earth and goodness is not always rewarded. I needed to set things right eventually.””

The excuse here is nothing more than a claim of vengeance but off stage left, and don’t you worry your pretty little head about it.  Of course, the bad guys are getting their punishment and you will do if you don’t believe correctly. The problem is that evil was supposedly always punished on earth, once upon a time.  God was always about smiting those who didn’t agree with him.  Now?  Not so much.  What’s wrong with setting things right *now*

“Q: “God, if You had it to do over again, what would You do differently in creating us?” — E., Lynbrook, NY

A: “I would not change a thing. Except, I might make you better golfers.””

Ha-ha.  Serious questions, what a better time than to use a little humor (very little) to avoid the question.  This appears to be nothing more than the “best possible universe” that apologists use, to claim that this simply *has* to be the best universe since God created it that way.  Alas, I can think of better universes, one where small cell lung cancer didn’t exist, where humans weren’t affected by arsenic which one of our prime food sources, rice, is very good sucking up and transferring to us; where gallbladders didn’t get stones, the source of power for the planet e.g. the Sun also gives us cancer if we get too exposed to it, etc.

“Q: “Will all of the heartache, pain and suffering that I see around me and that I’ve experienced finally make sense to me in the end?” — N., Rockville Centre, NY

A: “You cannot be given the answer to your question. You must live your way into the answer.””

Aka Don’t bother me kid.  To say that one must “live you way to the answer” is meaningless, and appears to be a delaying tactic since it’s very hard to ask the question after you are dead.  I also ignores the problem: what if you live your life and you come up with the answer “no, it makes no sense and the universe simply doesn’t care.” Which can be a rather comforting thought as Marcus Cole said “I used to think it was awful that life was so unfair. Then I thought, ‘wouldn’t it be much worse if life *were* fair, and all the terrible things that happen to us come because we actually deserve them?’ So now I take great comfort in the general hostility and unfairness of the universe.”

“Q: “God, why haven’t you given up on us in the face of our continuous evil and rebellion?” — E., via cyberspace

A: “I did once. Read about Noah. Then I got more patient.””

God got more patient, hmmm? So this god is nothing more than human frailties writ large with the idea of impatience?  So much for an omnipotent omniscient being which would know exactly what would happen.  If I know that someone will fail, why would I get angry that they did?  This god didn’t get much more patient if one can believe the bible.  The tower of Babel, that incident with the golden calf, killing Israelites if they questioned Moses, David’s son, the Babylonian captivity, etc. And then we have Revelation again where we get quite the temper tantrum.   Of course we do know from the story of Job, one doesn’t necessarily need to anger this god to have it make a bet with supposed pure evil and get your family killed.

“Q: “God, why does life have to be so painful at times?” — A., via cyberspace

A: “Because you cannot understand the good parts of being human without also coping with the bad parts. Being human is a total package.””

Again, we see that omnipotence isn’t what this god evidently is.  If heaven exists and is essentially all of the good parts without any of the bad parts, God’s argument fails.

“Q: “If God appeared to me and I could ask him any question,I would have no question to ask, but would have the only answer I need: God does exist!” — J., Westbury, N.Y.

A: “Told you so.””

“Q: “If I could ask God one question, I would have no need to ask any question!” — M., via cyberspace

A: “Thank you.””

Alas, this hasn’t happened, not with any theist with any god.  How would one know that the being in front of you is indeed the god you believe in?  The reason I ask this is that this god could stop a lot of problems doing just this, if we could know that it is it/him.  Giving evidence isn’t out of his portfolio *if* we believe the bible: see Doubting Thomas, burning bushes, wide spread miracle effects, etc.  Of course none occur now when people can actually document such things.  It’s hard to pass stories off as true when facts counter them.

“Q: “God, are You happy?” — L., via cyberspace

A: “Thank you.””

Tsk, “God”, that’s not an answer.  But, can an omnipotent, omniscient being be “happy”?  It seems that the only way this god is happy, or perhaps content is a better word, is that it gets its way and it is very unhappy when it doesn’t.  If its happiness depends on humanity, it is not omnipotent or omniscient. If it is omniscient, *and* it gets its way in the end, it should always be happy.  If it is omniscient *and* it doesn’t get its way in the end, it should always be unhappy.  If it doesn’t get its way, how can it be omni-everything.

As always, a “professional” apologist fares no better than any other theist.  The rabbi has a new column this week about intelligent design.  That should be a fun one. Stay tuned!

Not So Polite Dinner Conversation – speaking for God, a review of a recent God Squad column, Part 1

In a recent God Squad column, Rabbi Gellman thought to answer some questions that readers had the way he “hopes” that God would answer them.  Many of the answers are standard apologetics and excuses for the Judeo-Christian god.  I thought I’d share why this atheist finds the responses from “God” so unfortunate.  There’s quite a few questions answered, so this will be a multi-part post.  Since many of the answers bring up issues that atheists have pointed out over and over again, I hope to keep things brief.  Of course, if you read this blog, you can suspect just how much I might fail at that.

God and Stan Lee
God and Stan Lee

“Some time ago, I asked readers to share with me the one question they would ask God. I personally would ask: “Was I a good man?” I’d want to know how much of our goodness is credited by God, how much of our evil is forgiven by God, and how much God simply overlooks as the residue of our broken human-ness.”Here is the problem of what is “good” in a theistic sense.  Is good something independent or is it defined on what a particular god wants – god is good is god is good…?  I find that good could be defined as what humans want for themselves to be happy, healthy and content, and empathy can allow us to understand why everyone should share in that.  If God can over look evil at all, why doesn’t he overlook all of it if we are “broken” e.g. unable to be any different than made?  If god doesn’t credit goodness, either defined as doing what it wants or simply being empathic to our fellow humans, what is the point of the laws supposedly given?

“Christians generally believe that we are justified only by faith — saved by what we believe. Judaism believes that we are justified by our works — saved by what we do. I think both beliefs are right and wrong. Faith leads us more directly to forgiveness, and works lead us more directly to goodness. Both, I think, are essential for a completed spiritually life.”

A good intro to how much Jews and Christians differ in how they think the ostensibly the same god acts.  The rabbi fails to mention that Christians can also believe that grace is only given to some, and belief isn’t an independent thing.  Romans 9 goes into detail about that and those Christians who believe in predestination appear to believe what it says, that their god has already picked who would go to a pleasant afterlife.  Again, it is hard to tell what “goodness” is here in this context, obedience or being empathic and acting on it independently.

“Here are some of your very thoughtful questions. I’ve included the replies I hope God would give:

Q: “Why am I here? What is the meaning of life? What is the purpose of my existence?” — B., Appleton, Wis.

A: “Dear B., that’s more than one question! The answer to all three queries is that I made you to love as I have loved you. Everything else is not really that important.””

This is a common answer, that God needed something to love, so he made humans.  Other answers are that God needed to be “glorified”, which seems to mean God needs some way to show off his attributes and God needs to be worshipped.  Most Judeo-Christians (JC) will deny that their omnipotent/omniscient god needs anything.  This also brings up the problem of what love is in this context.  I find love to be the desire to help someone and spend time with them in a two way arrangement, they love you back.  It does not require threats or punishment.  The last sentence is the usual “don’t ask questions, just accept what I’ve told you”.

“Q: “How can I forgive? It’s so darned hard to forgive as You ask us to.” — C., Kings Park, NY

A: “Yes, indeed, C., it is hard to forgive. That’s why it’s better to limit the things you do that require forgiveness. This may help you: Try to think of every sin you commit against others to be a major sin, and every sin committed against you to be a minor sin. I think you’ll find this to be a good, though darned hard, bit of wisdom.””

Indeed, it is hard to forgive.  I’m a champion grudge holder from way back.  We have this god forgiving people for doing what it made them to do and if they don’t ask correctly, e.g. following laws, or finding a “savior”, then there is no forgiveness.  It does seem that this god should take its own advice, since any sin against it is considered a major sin and worthy of death and worse.  And where is the forgiving when you kill the son of someone who wronged you, per the story of David?

“Q: “Where were you, God, when 6 million Jews were being slaughtered under Hitler’s orders, as well as other people”? — L., North Babylon, NY

A: “I was with the victims. A better question is, ‘Where was man?'””

What a way to end Part 1.  This probably the most disgusting response created for a god and Rabbi Gellman isn’t the first to come up with it and I’m sure won’t be the last to use this as an excuse for his god. Where was man?  Oh in the 101st Airborne, the Eighth Army, the Soviet troops who liberated Auschwitz, the men who stormed Normandy beaches, the folks on the home front who collected steel, the people who risked their lives on the merchant ships taking supplies to Great Britain, the resistance fighters, Mr. Kugler, Ms. Gies, Mr. Kleiman, Ms. Voskuijl, etc.    It seems that this god was doing just what prayer does: nothing.  People die by the millions in very horrible ways on both sides. Starvation isn’t a good way to die, neither is a firestorm.  We have claims that this god can produce food magically.  Where was that?  Where was the great physical phenomena controlling god?  I’m guessing that the excuse would be free will and/or that this god “used” humans in doing something, which is indistinguishable from humans doing something without any divine impetus.

Tune in for the free will excuse next time in Part 2.