Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The immorality of god

Christians have a problem. They're not alone in this problem. Jews have it. Muslims have it. (Even Buddhists have it, though they have a novel solution.)

The god of the Abrahamic religions is supposed to be all-knowing, all-powerful, and filled with compassion and good will toward people. Yet the world has terrible earthquakes (and tsunamis and hurricanes and ...) that fail to divide the blessed from the wicked, that instead kill and maim and orphan indiscriminately. This is the problem of evil.

The upshot is that, at best, you can pick two. God must be ignorant of some things, or must have limited power, or must be at best neglectful. Otherwise, the world is inexplicable.

Professional Christians such as Pat Robertson and, sadly, many of the credulous in their flocks, have chosen. Robertson opts for an unjust, immoral god. He says that the Haitians brought their current plight on themselves by making a pact with the devil 200 years ago, when not a soul now living (or dying or mourning) was yet born. Robertson is content with a god who visits punishments on the innocent descendants of the wicked - or really, the allegedly wicked, since there's no bullshit an ugly preacher like Robertson won't make up to suit his disgusting purpose.

In the Middle Ages, some theologians tried to excuse god's failings by making the breathtakingly bold argument that this is the best of all possible worlds. Let's just say they weren't making this argument to the peasants, who - a la Monty Python - had lots of shit on them. They were choosing to portray god as omnipotent as possible, but not quite so omnipotent as to be able to overcome reality. At best, this was just a clever intellectual dodge. If he could make heaven beyond the firmament of stars, why couldn't he make heaven on earth? Did those well-kept theologians imagine god saying to impertinent skeptics like me, "Because I said so!"? Then of course striking me dead...

The Middle Ages were slow to change, which made these laughable arguments an iota less implausible. But the ebb and flow of evil and good across later eras made it even more risible to claim that the mess of ordinary life in front of our eyes might be optimal.

As a friend's divinity school professor asked, "How do you believe in god in the face of the Holocaust?" Indeed, what god who held the three big omnis (omnipotence, omniscience, and omnibenevolence) could permit the Zyklon showers, the mass murder of families, the casual starvation, and the steady operation of the ovens with their ash of industrial ordinariness? No god that I could ever distinguish from Satan, if I were so childlike as to need to personify evil.

The Founders of the American republic, now under siege from the witless and contrived belief of fundamentalists, knew injustice. In the Constitution, Article III, section 3, they said:

The Congress shall have Power to declare the Punishment of Treason, but no Attainder of Treason shall work Corruption of Blood, or Forfeiture except during the Life of the Person attainted.
The myth of the fall from grace in Eden is a bill of attainder that works corruption of blood. Robertson's blame for the Haitians is too. Sadly, I find good friends from my childhood saying that all illness is a result of sin. They too are choosing an unjust god. Even if they are not so mean as to blame the illness (autism in this case) on some sin of the afflicted, they are willing to countenance and worship a god who would punish a fresh new child for the sins of Adam and Eve.

It is immoral to visit the sins of the fathers on their children. So, is your god a just god? Or just another old son of bitch in the image of Pat Robertson?

Update (1/14): Yep, bullshit.

1 comment:

S said...

Good post. I will never understand how it comforts people to believe in a god who either allows these things to happen or makes them happen.