In closing

The last respondent to my last post wrote: “I don’t know how you could present your theories…in greater detail.”

Believe me, Dana, I could, but I sense a readiness on the part of many readers to move on, so I’m going to content myself with one last post on the subject for the foreseeable future.

My previous efforts occasioned a great many responses but none of them in regard to the points I raised. I’m not sure what to make of this, but I’m not easily discouraged, so I will close with two other objections to theism. First is the logical contradiction. It arises from God’s commonly supposed attributes such as omniscience, omnipotence, and omnipresence, and examples can be thought of by the dozen. Here are a few.

Can God create a stone so heavy that he can’t lift it?
Can he do evil?
Can he will himself to die?
Can he choose to not know something?
Can he create a being greater than himself?
Can he be somewhere that he isn’t?

A final, somewhat related, objection to the type of God whom most people worship concerns suffering, and has inspired its own branch of theology—theodicy. It was an early concern of mine, and I have never found an explanation that made sense to me. I’ll present it in three parts.

(1) If God is omniscient, he knows exactly where, when, and how much every creature suffers. (2) If God is omnibenevolent, he doesn’t want any creature to suffer. (3) If God is omnipotent, he has the power to eliminate suffering without eliminating any benefit that suffering might bring.

Why, then, doesn’t he? All of the answers I have seen denied one of these three attributes. Of course, some people seek to avoid the problem altogether by throwing up their hands and claiming that God is inscrutable, but this approach has problems too. For one thing, it amounts to an admission that the case against God looks awfully bad. For another, it raises the question of whether moral behavior is whatever God says it is, or whether it exists independently of God. If morality is whatever God says it is, then it would be perfectly moral for him to tell you to lie, cheat, and murder your children (all of which are things he has actually done, according to the Bible at least).

Indeed, it is this second way of thinking about God that enables people to do absolutely horrific things in his name everyday of the week. Suicide bombers think they doing God’s will. Men who murder their daughters for “honor crimes” are likewise trying to please God. All of the people who shunned me when I lost my faith thought that turning their backs on me was what God wanted them to do, as did the people who threw my brother out of the church for playing music in a place that served liquor.

There is nothing that so angers nonreligious people as the observation that those who worship God often stand ready to throw compassion and justice out the window in a heartbeat if they think it will please him. For example, the opposition to abortion regardless of the circumstances; the cover-up of pedophilia by the hierarchy of the Catholic Church; George Bush’s willingness to violate the law in order to route taxpayer money to religious charities that discriminated and proselytized; and families that disown their children for marrying outside “the faith.” Slavery, genocide, religious intolerance, discrimination against women and the disabled, the murder of nonbelievers and homosexuals, and so on and so on, are all solidly rooted in Jewish, Moslem, and Christian scriptures. And, no, nothing that Christ said changed that. So it is that people who seek to excuse God by virtue of his “inscrutability” as also excusing the crimes done in his name.

I have tried to be fair in my criticisms throughout these posts, yet this is a subject that is as emotional to me as it is to many of you who stand, as it were, on the opposite side of the fence. I therefore apologize for whatever ways I might have failed. I have likewise generalized my comments to only apply to the supernatural deity in whom I once believed, and in whom most Americans appear to believe. In closing, I can but thank those of you who have hung in there with me despite the offense I have surely occasioned.