Freedom had been hunted round the globe; reason was considered as rebellion; and the slavery of fear had made men afraid to think. But such is the irresistible nature of truth, that all it asks, and all it wants, is the liberty of appearing.
~ Thomas Paine, Rights of Man, 1791 ~

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Why would you worship a murderer?

If you are happy to believe in and worship a god who would save you, but allows millions of children to suffer and die every year, then you are a sick and disgusting individual. I hope you are better than that.

Now that I have your attention, and your apologist brain is probably already scrambling to form excuses answers, lets explore this a little further...

Don't ask difficult questions that we don't know how to answer

Of course, all believers have some way of reasoning around this, but so far as I've seen, it amounts to pushing the uncomfortable facts to one side so that they can continue to feel special. They say that “God has good reasons that we just can’t understand”, or something like that. They pretend that God can let children die by the millions each year and not even owe us an explanation.

The negligent father

Suppose one of my children got sick, and I could have easily given them medicine to make them better, but I chose instead to watch them die. If my other children asked me why I did that, wouldn't I owe them a damn good explanation? (I do not think there is one). Do you think they would be satisfied with the answer that “I have my reasons and you wouldn't understand”? In fact the Bible doesn't even say that much (in this context). Do you think the other children would be happy if I kept silent and never answered their questions about it? Should they still love and respect me?

I would never intentionally withhold medical care from my children and I suspect neither would you. I find it incredibly difficult to respect anyone who would. Parents have been jailed for exactly this kind of behaviour, and so they should be.

Why do people make an exception for God? How is it different? If God would make an immoral human, how could he be a moral god?

Shut your eyes and just believe

The argument that "God has good reasons that we just can't understand" is sick and twisted logic that is obviously and intentionally designed to allow believers to still feel good about their beliefs in the face of such horrific events, if their god were to exist. The argument is clearly designed to “make the problem go away so I can go on believing”. I ask why. Why would you care about your own salvation more than the health of children? More to the point, why would you want to live forever with someone who treated children this way?

The old "free will" argument

Some will contend that God could heal people, and even wants to, but he doesn't want to infringe on their free will. Well how convenient! Suddenly the god who has apparently been intervening in human affairs and even healing thousands of people in biblical times, wants to start respecting people's "free will". If this isn't just another weak excuse from desperate believers, then I don't know what is!

Suppose a defence lawyer argued that a parent who left their sick child to die was simply not wishing to violate their child's free will. Would it wash? Should the parent go free? If we wouldn't excuse this behaviour in humans, why do believers consider this a valid excuse for a supposedly all-loving god? I agree that God should not be held to a human standard, but shouldn't he be held to a much higher one?

Are doctors and nurses everywhere guilty of violating the free will of their patients? Is free will such a protected value that it takes priority over the health and well-being of children? Is this argument anything but a desperate attempt to get an accused murderer off the hook?

The best possible world

There is still one popular argument that I haven't addressed. It relates more to the problem of natural evil, such as natural disasters, but it may also apply to the problem of excessive suffering as well.

Some people claim that the world we live in is actually the best possible world, and therefore even though there is excessive suffering, and millions of children die every year, God could not have improved on it in any way. This view was popularised by Gottfried Leibniz in 1710, in his attempt to solve the "problem of evil". He coined the phrase "best of all possible worlds".

It seems odd for Christians to use this argument, because if you're a Christadelphian you already believe in a future world that is better than this one, and furthermore all Christians believe in a place called heaven which is, by definition, better than this world.

A personal note

In case it isn't clear, I want to point out that this argument is not the reason I left the religion. I left primarily because I no longer believed that the Bible was divinely inspired. When I say that believers worship a murderer, I mean that they worship a being who, if their beliefs are correct, sounds very much to me like a murderer. The fact that believers find this question difficult suggests that they can see it too. It makes some believers very uncomfortable, and it should.

This entire argument is not an argument against the existence of god. I want to make that clear. It is an argument against the existence of an all-loving god. If the result of this means you still believe and worship God, but no longer insist he is "all-loving", then I'm glad you see the point. I find your willingness to still worship such a deity rather creepy, but that's your choice.

However, I suspect that most believers will just push the inconvenient facts out the way and go on believing as they did before, because they want to. Or in some cases, because they need to. I say this because it seems to me that many believers are actually afraid of changing their mind, or having their views challenged. They have built their life on it, and now they need to defend it at all costs lest their precious house of cards collapses, and they along with it. If that is the case for you, then you need to stop seeing the person who wants to topple the cards as your enemy, and start seeing them as someone who is trying to help you to embrace reality for what it is, and to accept the world you live in, for all its good and bad aspects.

It's time to step out of the comfortable illusion, and step into the real world!

A touch of irony

I think that by far the most common way for people to reconcile the issue of dying children with a loving god is to imagine that they somehow don't have all of the information, and that God must have some greater purpose that they simply don't know or don't understand. They want to believe that their god really is all-loving, and so they rationalise the difficult issues away in order to preserve that belief.

This presents a rather ironic difficulty for people like me. Let me explain.

I want to believe that most believers are nice people, and that they have good reasons for worshipping a god who lets children suffer and die by the millions each year, even though they believe he could heal them if he wanted to. I feel uncomfortable about the fact they worship a murderer but many of these people still treat me ok so I assume they must have a good reason to worship their god. I just don’t know what that reason could be. The reasons they have given so far sound terrible. Perhaps they have better reasons, but if so they don’t say.

How should I reconcile this?

  1. People who believe in this god are all sadomasochists.
  2. People are not aware of the issue or haven't thought much about it.
  3. People accept one of the explanations I mentioned earlier and most of them don't think any further about it.
  4. People have some explanation I have not considered yet.

At the very least they do not seem to think their god is a murderer, so I can probably rest assured they would probably not worship him if they did. That should rule out option 1 for most people. The very existence of apologetic arguments attempting to solve the problem of evil suggests that people agree that some explanation is required. It doesn't explain why we are the ones who are left to come up with such an explanation.

Based on my experience, I think options 2 or 3 apply to most believers. I think these views are shallow and perhaps even egocentric. If believers want to convince non-believers that they are rational and loving people, that their belief system is also based on love, and that they worship a loving god, then they need to do a much better job of addressing these issues. From where I'm sitting it's starting to look as though believers are mainly just interested in avoiding death, and their personal beliefs are just padded out around that one desire. They accept Christianity first and foremost because it appeals to that innate wish.

If you picked option 4, do let me know your explanation in the comments.

If you are a Christadelphian, why do you worship a god who watches millions of children suffer and die every year, despite (as you believe) having the power to heal them?