Wednesday, December 07, 2005

The power is in the post, not in the deity

One popular argument used by non-theologians when they engage in theodicy (reconciling an omnibenevolent and omnipotent god with a world full of suffering) is that nobody can question their god, since he can do anything he wants and is answerable to no one. Genocide, babies with Down's Syndrome or Tsunamis - failure to stop any of these does not impugn on the moral character of their god. This god could castrate his devotees (or rape them, for the female ones), tear them limb from limb, tie their intestines to a tree and throw them off a cliff (but alas, not to their doom, for they would come back to life in a Sisyphean manner), and they would be praising him as they plunged. He could send the whole human race to burn in hell for all eternity and his worshippers would still be chanting his praises while roasting in sulphur and brimstone.

The problem with this deceptively convincing argument is that it ignores the question of the definition of "good". An omnipotent and omnibenevolent god can do anything, and he will be acclaimed as being good. If an entity cannot be wrong - is incapable of being wrong - we would label it "amoral" - neither moral or immoral, incapable of being either right or, more relevantly in this case, wrong. A rock, for example, is amoral since it has no will (let alone free will) and thus cannot be held accountable for its actions. To acclaim as good an entity which is incapable of being judged immoral is to make a mockery of the concept of morality (if not to make it an unintelligible concept), and indeed that of divine will, since this god will be incapable by definition of doing something wrong; if somebody cheats and obtains answers to a test and then gets full marks, he would not have achieved anything by any objective measure.

Subscribing to a notion of morality being dependent on a god's ever changing whims (as opposed to an objective moral code that even this god can and has to be held to) in fact condemns us to the ultimate form of moral relativism - what is good can change at any one time depending on what the omnibenevolent god does. Some might counter that some gods have moral codes that do not change with time, but that would render null and void the earlier fudge about whatever gods do being automatically branded as good. Furthermore, a look at the Bible and Christian history puts paid to this argument, at least for the Christian god, for it is clear that moral standards have changed dramaticaly with time. What's worse - the Biblical god does not even abide by his own moral standards.

We might then ask why the Christian devil Satan is so reviled. It is because he does evil things, we are told. Yet, even if the Christian god did evil things, by definition he would be acclaimed as good. Presumably, even if a reasonable man judged that Satan did good things like prolonging lives, reducing suffering, ending pestilence and preventing famines, and the Christian god engaged in evil activities like infanticide, genocide, introducing the Ebola virus to the world, we would have to pronounce the former evil and the latter good. The concepts of "good" and "evil" would cease to have any real meaning. The two entities could even be switched (the former god would now be Satan, and the former Satan be god) and the old god would now be denounced and the old Satan be lauded. What would be worshipped, then, would be the Christian god's post, rather than any of his intrinsic attributes, at least according to the "god can do anything he wants" argument. In that case, anyone could be put in the Christian god's post, even any Tom, Dick or Harry on the street, and he would be lauded as being good. For that matter, a monkey, a computer or even a rock could do the same job, and would accrue the same privileges.

How do we really know that the Christian god is good? We just have to take his word for it (or rather, the word of his spokesmen).

A Christian once told me to judge any religion by its fruits. I suppose the same will have to be said of the Christian god, even if rotten, maggot-ridden fruit is wolved down with relish by his worshippers.

***

Someone: look, you might as well take a look at biblical representation of satan. he didn't start off being the Ultimate Bad Guy
look at his evolution from genesis to job

Me: well this is the fundie representation of him
and I think only fundies use the "god can do no wrong" argument
some liberals even accept that the bible is not 100% true!!!

4 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

you're confusing christianity with islam. from what you're saying i would feel that more about my god than the christian one. 'my god', i say because i didnt really have a choice to be born in the cultural environment in which i'm in now. i read up on the bible and the christian god is nothing like what you say. you have many biased opinions that seem validated.
but on further examination and pondering it's not.

Thursday, January 05, 2006 12:12:00 AM  
Blogger Agagooga said...

Your opinions would be taken a lot more seriously if you supported them with concrete examples and properly constructed arguments, rather than relying on vague assertions and broad sweeps of your hands.

Thursday, January 05, 2006 12:15:00 AM  
Anonymous wei said...

Who is this that speaks without knowledge?! He accuses Me of injustice but his heart is filled with wickedness! How dare you turn My character into a subject of men's whims and fancies?! You are a mere mortal and you do not see the fullness of My ways but presume to know and speak as if you knew! What gives you the right to speak on behalf of babies and victims of the works of My hand?! You see in part but speak of the whole! Who are you that the Almighty must give account?!

The fascade of your knowledge and so called wisdom of your opinions will be torn down and the fallacies of your reasonings will be rendered useless! Your many words will be of no use when you stand before the righteousness of the Almighty on that day of reckoning!

Wednesday, February 08, 2006 1:49:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Psalm 10:15

Wednesday, February 08, 2006 1:51:00 PM  

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