God: arsehole

You may know these lines from Dawkins’ The God Delusion:

“The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.”

These are very famous words, and Christians etc will often point at them as an example of ‘fundamentalist atheism’, if there is such a thing. But it’s an easy statement to back up, all you have to do is read the Bible with a critical eye and you’ll see the terrible things he does and advocates. He destroys civilisations for next to no reason, he damns humanity for eating an apple, he turns a woman into a pillar of salt for turning her head around, he’d rather have 2 of Lot’s daughters raped by a mob than 1 man. There are all those crazy laws set in place (which aren’t limited to the Old Testament, btw). An example of good behaviour is Abraham preparing to kill his son for no good reason! First of all, surely an omniscient God would know whether Abraham would have done it or not, there was no need for the test. But more importantly, all this God wants is blind obedience, with no critical thinking whatsoever. How is this in our interest?

But that stuff’s easy to pick out, I want to look at the things that get assumed or taken for granted by Christians, things that are so engrained into our culture that we don’t often look at them for what they really are.

So, big number 1 on the reasons God is an arsehole is the problem of evil. I’ll dedicate a whole post to this soon, I think, as I haven’t really touched on it that much, but I think this is a justifiable reason not to believe in God. Christians blame it on the Fall or Free Will (we’ll get onto that soon enough), but neither of those explanations stand up to scrutiny. Maybe I’ll be writing about that tomorrow. If I was God, you wouldn’t have to pray to me to cure your child of leukemia, I’d just do it, or I wouldn’t have let the child get it in the first place.

Anyway, next up is this free will bollocks. Here’s a series of videos which do the job of explaining much better than I can. Be sure to watch all three parts.

God wants us to choose because he doesn’t want a bunch of mindless drones in heaven with him, and yet one of the choices results in a punishment imposed by him. Say I asked you if you wanted chicken or beef, but that if you chose chicken then I’d blow your brains out, would that be a free choice? Not really. Maybe I really want chicken but because of the punishment I choose beef. Is that what God wants? Surely that’s just the same as having mindless drones? I haven’t chosen God, I’ve just chosen not-hell. It’s blackmail.

It’s ridiculous, and just like in the Abraham story, it’s totally unneccesary. Why bother with Earth when he knows who’s going to choose him and who isn’t? Why not just only create people who he knows are going to choose him? Why create people who he knows are destined to burn in eternal hellfire, like me? It’s sadistic.

Related to this point is what’s required for salvation. Remember, God is making the rules here, he supposedly created everything! First of all he needs a blood sacrifice. He can’t just forgive. That doesn’t sound like an omnipotent God to me. In fact it sounds distinctly like the musings of some stone age barbarians influenced by paganism. Secondly according to Christians, the only way to be saved is by believing in Jesus Christ. Not just being good, not helping other people, just believing. If I were God, I wouldn’t have salvation based on belief in something ludicrous despite the lack of evidence, that would leave me in heaven with a bunch of gullible idiots with no critical thinking skills. No, my requirement would be something like “don’t be a prick”. I wouldn’t care if someone believed in me or not.

So God’s an arsehole. In fact, he’s such an arsehole that even if there were proof of his existence, I’d like to think I wouldn’t worship him. I’d sooner worship a complete stranger, the odds are they’re more moral than the God Christians claim to know and love.

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25 Responses to God: arsehole

  1. Jack Charnley says:

    hey mike,

    I disagree- I think you are quite a friendly humanist! Unfortunately I think I disagree with your main point as well.

    I think we often like to shake our fists at god, to accuse him, to put him on trial, some people question him: why do allow suffering? why haven’t you made yourself clearer? or other such as yourself accuse his character- why do you send people to hell?

    We put god in the dock and expect him to answer our accusations. That’s exactly what happened two thousand years ago. Jesus, who was fully God, was tried as a criminal, and was unjustly sentenced to be crucified. So it really doesn’t surprise me when people talk about God like this.

    But Jesus’ character was perfect- he was wrongly accused, he had never done anything wrong, he lived a life of love and grace, and he showed this love by allowing himself to be crucified- to pay the penalty of the sins of his people. As he was crucified he said ‘father forgive them , they do not know what they are doing.’ Even as they were murdering him, hurling insults at him, spiting at him, he was giving up his life for them, so that they might be forgiven. As he lay dying he forgave one of the criminals next to him. You say God’s unjust and unloving- how can this be so when you consider the cross? Becauase he’s a just God, he has to punish those who wrongly accuse him, and because he’s a loving god, he sent himself, in the person of his Son, to pay this punishment in our place. look what God was prepared to do to forgive his people! He’s a God of incredible love.

    And then he rose Jesus from the dead to confirm his deity and show us that he really was God and that he really did take our place on the cross so that we might, like him, be raised to eternal life. Its brilliantly good news and it shows us that god has our best interests at heart!

    If you are to fully understand Gods character I ask you to consider jesus and especially the cross.

    warm regards,

    Jack

  2. Ned says:

    Embedded video woooo

  3. grammarking says:

    Nice to hear from you Jack,

    There’s an atheist experience video on YouTube which deals with this point very well but my internet at home is really slow and it’d take me ages to find it, so I’ll sum up the sentiment.

    If someone told me that if I went through a few hours of torture and then got killed, then world poverty would be eradicated, I’d do it in a heartbeat. Never mind the whole Spock mantra ‘the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few’, I’d be going down in history as the guy who ended world poverty! No question, I’d do it. If I then found out that I’d be raised from the dead 3 days later, mega bonus! I’d definitely do it! Then if I found out that afterwards I would be God, I’d be confused. That’s not a sacrifice at all. It always annoys me when people spell this out as a massive sacrifice when really it’s not, I bet anyone else would do the same.

    But you’re just repeating Christian dogma, Jack. As I’ve said in my post, the whole sacrificing himself to himself thing is unnecessary. Was God incapable of just forgiving? Why was the blood sacrifice necessary? Not only that but why is salvation based on believing the whole thing? It doesn’t make sense. It sounds like something superstitious stone age people would come up with.

    All the best, Mike

  4. grammarking says:

    Oh, other reasons why God’s an arse. Here’s the video.

    So God’s omnipotent, and yet his human manifestation on earth consists of curing the odd leper and turning water into wine. What a prick!

  5. Marc Surtees says:

    Hi Mike,

    Should God just forgive Hilter?

  6. grammarking says:

    “Just” forgive? No. But neither should Hitler be tortured for eternity. His crime was finite, however horrific, and thus his punishment should be too.

    You’re trying to make out like my judicial system is flawed but actually think about what it would take to get Hitler into heaven under Christian teaching. It’s surprisingly little. All Hitler would have to do after he’s committed his heinous crimes is believe in Jesus as his saviour and repent. It doesn’t matter what anyone’s done, if they repent before they die they’re off scott free. If they don’t, they get punished for eternity. Doesn’t sound too fair to me.

    Should God forgive me? If I die now and you’re right, I’m going to hell. Do I deserve that?

  7. Marc Surtees says:

    Hi Mike,

    Well if is was that easy and if you do not repent then who’s fault is it if you end up in hell?

    The choice is yours, confess your sin (to God, not anyone else), repent and believe or spend eternity in hell.

    Seems like a good deal to me – I was on my way to hell, but God has saved me and will welcome me into heaven because I repent and believe.
    Do I deserve that?

  8. grammarking says:

    And if you die and Zeus is at the pearly gates and you go to hell, will you deserve it?

    Not only that but you’re assuming that I can choose what I believe. I don’t think I do, I believe what is most plausible based on the evidence placed before me. Even if I could choose what I believe, don’t you think God would see through such a plan? Quite frankly I’d rather live an honest life, believe what the evidence tells me and if I get to the pearly gates and one of the thousands of deities I don’t (or rather, didn’t) believe in asks why I didn’t, I’ll be able to say honestly that the evidence was lacking and that it seemed they were trying to conceal themselves. You, on the other hand, if confronted with a deity other than the Christian God (and heaven forbid if the Catholics were right!), will be unable to say that because if you say the evidence was lacking then they’ll be able to throw back at you that you believe in another God for which there is no more evidence than for them.

    Really, Marc, I thought you were better than Pascal’s Wager.

  9. Marc Surtees says:

    Hi Mike,

    Pascal’s Wager! – I was only warming up!! I agree its pretty feeble, but it does illustrate the point that human beings consistently make bad choices.

    It all comes down to evidence and choice. There is actually plenty of evidence for the existence of someone or something called “god” which is why there is a revival of theism in philosophy departments.

    The next step is working out which of the gods on the market is/are the real one! That’s were it comes down to personal experience. Every born again (or perhaps more accurately born from above) Christian has had a personal encounter with God that is impossible to ignore. When God opens your eyes you will see and believe, but until God reveals himself to you, you will continue to conclude that there is a lack evidence. It is this final step that is the key and only God can make it. It is God’s sovereign choice that matters not our choice, because left to ourselves we always chose wrong. In fact free will is too big a word for a will that consistently makes wrong choices. Which is where that video clip goes wrong.

    We all choose hell and God chooses to save some from that. It may sound unfair, but in fact it would be perfectly fair for God to leave us to the consequences of our sin. The fact that he does not do that is the amazing thing. He has saved me not because I deserve it, but because he loves me. And the surpreme example of that is Jesus. He came to the Earth to show us God and to die in our place as a propitiation, so that God’s justice is satisfied and I can go free.
    Those who think that they are going to tell God that there was not enough evidence will in fact find that, when they stand before the great white throne, all excuses are blown away and they will agree with God’s verdict and the really terrible thing is that it will be too late.

    And, Milke, you will not be able to say that you didn’t know.

    • Alex Pryce says:

      “When God opens your eyes you will see and believe, but until God reveals himself to you, you will continue to conclude that there is a lack evidence.”

      So until God reveals himself to me I’m screwed? That’s not very good is it? God is choosing NOT to reveal himself to some people knowing that they will end up in hell. we are allegedly gods children. If I had Children and one of them was going to be damned to eternal suffering and damnation unless I said hello, then I’d make a point of saying hello as soon as possible.

      If we can only be saved when he reveals himself, then he is a very twisted individual who chooses not to reveal himself.

  10. grammarking says:

    “It may sound unfair, but in fact it would be perfectly fair for God to leave us to the consequences of our sin.”

    It’s not the consequences of our sin, he’s making the game! He is imposing the punishment. Furthermore, you’ve just said we can’t choose, it’s HIS choice to reveal himself to us, so how can we be held responsible if he doesn’t? You could say it’s our fault because of the Fall, but I shouldn’t be held responsible even for what my dad’s done, never mind an ancestor from thousands of years ago. Not to mention that that never happened. What an arse!

    “It all comes down to evidence and choice.” Well like I say I’m not so sure on choice, but evidence, we’re agreed.

    “There is actually plenty of evidence for the existence of someone or something called “god” which is why there is a revival of theism in philosophy departments.”
    I’m yet to hear anything that can’t be explained without invoking the supernatural. It’s one thing to believe something, but if you can’t demonstrate to someone else why, then that’s evidence that your beliefs are poorly grounded.

    • Marc Surtees says:

      “unless I said hello, then I’d make a point of saying hello as soon as possible.”

      But God has said hello. He sent prophets, he sent Jesus and today His disciples keep going on about Jesus and never stop.

  11. grammarking says:

    “And, Milke, you will not be able to say that you didn’t know.”

    Just as I won’t be able to say I didn’t know about all the other God’s I’ve heard of but don’t believe in. By that logic, I should just choose the deity that imposes the worst punishment for disbelief, so that if I’m gambling, than at least I’m definitely avoiding the worst punishment.

  12. Marc Surtees says:

    Mike, you write,

    “It’s one thing to believe something, but if you can’t demonstrate to someone else why, then that’s evidence that your beliefs are poorly grounded.”

    So am I to understand that you do not rate the classic 4 arguements for the existence of God ie:
    Cosmological
    Teleological
    Ontological
    Moral
    ?

    And then there is the personal experince of God in my own life and other people’s lives. Quiet a lot of evidence to ignore.

    The sad fact is that many people when faced with this evidence chose to ignore it and when pushed into a corner will chose to go to hell rather than repent and and take a step of faith. This is another reason why the video clip about free will is inaccurate. The fact that people know about hell but still chose to go there shows that they are able to choose having evaluated the conseqences. In fact they are gambling that either, hell does not exist or that God will let them off. If we stick with Pascal’s wager for a bit: the gamble of believing is a lot less risky that the gamble of disbelief (at least in the West). Which makes it even more amazing that people in muslim countries (for example)convert to Christianity even though they lose their jobs, home and sometime their lives. They must have had some pretty heavy evidence to make them do that.

  13. Marc,

    It is unconceivable that people who know about hell and actually believe would choose hell, especially when the choice also includes the opportunity of heaven. If I guaranteed $100 Million for being good for a week and you believed me, it isn’t conceivable that the vast majority of people would be good, especially if they also believed that they would be burned alive if they failed. The time frames and rewards and punishments seem reasonable when comparing life to eternity. Really, if you actually believe in an eternity in the agony of hell, how could a reasonable man make that choice? If you actually believe in the wonderfulness of heaven and the goodness and power of god, how could you not chose god and heaven. It makes no sense.

    When you couple this with the ease of avoiding hell and achieving heaven with the concepts of “belief alone” and universal forgiveness through repentance or prayer, you have a situation where the only possible explanation for Christians to fail to be “saved” (and the majority fail (“many are called but few are chosen”)) is that they do not really believe. I mean, getting saved is the simplest thing in the world; all you have to do is believe or repent! Catholics repent every Saturday night.

    People do not choose to go to hell, rather, they do not really believe in either heaven or hell.

    And all of your arguments fail when those who are uninformed and therefore un-baptized, are damned forever to eternal hellfire through no fault of their own. They do not choose hell, but go there for not being informed, for never having the opportunity to choose.

  14. Marc Surtees says:

    Hi David,

    Just a quick one as I have to go out now. (I will try and answer your other points later.)

    Baptism is not essential to salvation (the thief on the cross entered paradise but was not baptisted).

  15. Mark, you fall into a common trap. You say that “the thief on the cross entered paradise but was not baptized”. You are referring to a special circumstance in which Jesus was personally involved. Just as he caused Lazarus to rise from the dead doesn’t mean that everyone can rise from the dead but only those who have special favor from god. If you want Jesus’ opinion of baptism, why don’t you simply read his words “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit.” Jn 3:5.

  16. Marc Surtees says:

    Hi David,

    I have to disagree with your exegesis on baptism. If only for the reason that everyone who is saved has in fact received special favour from God.

    Which is also why a cannot accept the title of this posting. I know that God is a God of grace and mercy because He has shown me grace and mercy. That is why I will be in heaven and not in hell.
    Definitely GOOD NEWS.

  17. grammarking says:

    And to hell with everyone else. Literally.

  18. Jason Piteo says:

    Mike,

    I have a question for you…

    Why do you continue to post all these humanist/atheist thoughts… I mean, what is your motivation?

    You see, true Christians are willing to engage in such discussion because we sincerely care for the eternal well-being of our non-believer friends (you). But why do you persist in the debate? What do you have to gain?

    You might say that your motivation is to save humanity from mass delusion by way of religion, but let me assure you that we Christians are quite happy with our “delusion”. We believe in and have truly felt God’s presence in our lives, and there’s no equivalent to this without God. You see, with God comes purpose in life, a joy that transcends human condition, and a peace that overcomes all of life’s trials. Any moral regulation we Christians we seem to place upon ourselves in response to the Bible is done joyfully.

    Having been on both sides of coin, believer and not, I choose God. I remember how I was and I don’t want to go back. Knowing my Lord Jesus has made all the difference in my life. I pray for that difference for my non-believer friends, even if they call my God an arsehole.

    -Jason

  19. grammarking says:

    Hi Jason,

    Your assertion that people are happy in their delusion is irrelevant. I’m sure people were happy thinking the world was flat too.

    The reason I post. Well to a certain extent it’s because I like writing. I also think it’s important that ideas like religion are not seen as beyond criticism. These are minor reasons.

    The main reason is because people’s beliefs inform their actions, in two different ways. First of all if someone believes that God has sent them on a mission and that they’ll live forever, they have no problem flying a plane into a building. Similarly if someone believes God doesn’t like condoms or stem cell research then they’ll work against it. This is holding back our society. If these beliefs are not based on good evidence, then our society is being held back for a poor reason, and I’d like that to change.

    The second way beliefs affect your actions is by the way you form your beliefs. If you don’t think critically about what you believe, then what other beliefs are you going to come to by similar irrational means? So another motive of the blog is to try and promote rational and critical thinking.

    People’s actions almost invariably affect other people, so it’s not a case of just leaving people to believe in peace. If they genuinely did just believe and not let that affect their actions, then I’d have no problem with it.

    And specifically with this post, lots of people tell me that God is perfect, that God is omnibenevolent and that God is love, when that’s clearly not the case if you just read the Bible and think about it for a minute. He’s more like a mafia boss. I’m just pointing out an inconsistency in belief.

    Mike

  20. Hi Mike,
    Just stumbled upon this post.
    The problem of evil is, of course, one of the most difficult problems for all world-views. It is categorically though an insurmountable problem for the humanist. if all we are is slime+time then there shouldn’t be a problem. There is no evil, and no good. the world is merely an amoral collection of atoms. Morality is only a set of chemical reactions.
    Yet we instinctively know that such materialistic reductionism won’t wash.
    As to your accusations against God: we also instinctively feel that for any human being to wipe out nations, act as judge and jury etc is wrong. but why? is it not because they, a mere man “PLay God”. God, however, isn’t “Playing” God, he is God, and so has the right to do things that God alone may do. In fact, if he didn’t punish evil, and let there be eternal injustice, we would accuse him of being amoral, and indifferent to the plight of the oppressed.

  21. grammarking says:

    Hi Mike,

    Sorry this took a while to approve, I’ve been out of the country at a funeral.

    Your assertion that suffering is a problem for humanists doesn’t stand. I do wonder why you specifically used the term ‘humanist’ since it is even less of a problem for humanists than for other atheists. Humanists and atheists do not believe that people are ‘just’ atoms. Yes, they are made up of atoms, and I’m not saying that there’s something more than that, but that’s not to say that there is no morality. Morality is a social construct. We have evolved in a way that allows us to build models in our heads and decide which would be the best outcome for most people. Basic morality. You seem to be saying that if there’s no absolute morality then there can be no morality at all. That’s clearly not the case.

    I suppose to a certain extent it depends on what you mean by ‘problem’. Suffering is a problem for Christians, because it needs an explanation. I’ve yet to hear a good one (there’s another post here called The Problem of Evil which deals with this point better). If we were an amoral set of atoms, then I suppose evil would be a problem for atheists too, but not because it requires an explanation. What does need an explanation is why we consider some things immoral (which scientists and philosophers have answered adequately). It would also be a problem in terms of whether we could hold people responsible for their actions, but it’s not the same problem that suffering entails for the Christian.

    Mike

  22. Mike Gilbart-Smith says:

    Hi Mike,
    Your reply didn’t take as long as mine to yours now… I’m REALLY slow, but then I guess it isn’t my blog, so I won’t check it as often as you…
    In my comment above, I specifically chose the term ‘humanist’ because that’s in the title of your blog!

    Let me just push you a little further on the question of basic morality and absolute morality. If morality is about what is ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ then it becomes rather meaningless if it is merely a social construction: it becomes merely an exercise in anthropology. Yet, I suggest that we instinctively know that morality is more than that.

    When we observe other societies that come up with radically different moralities, we don’t merely say ‘that’s interesting’. We say ‘that’s wrong’. We don’t see a society that condones paedophilia or slavery or racism or and say ‘that’s interesting’ we look at it and say ‘that’s wrong’. On what basis can we do this if morality is only a social construction… how can one society ever say that another society has ‘wrong’ ethics. Interestingly you clearly want to do that, writing off another society’s ethics as ‘stoneage’ earlier in this post.
    Thoughts?
    mike

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