Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Christian God Sure Takes His Sweet Time by Peter Hurford

The Christian God Sure Takes His Sweet Time:
Welcome to yet another essay where I pile on even more reasons to find Christianity false. For those keeping score at home, I’ve previously exposed Christianity for contradicting the evidence by getting the order of creation hopelessly wrong in Genesis. I’ve also busted Christianity for prayer being false and contradictory, having a doctrine of Hell that is clearly unjust, and for the actions of God in the Bible being clearly malevolent.

And don’t forget that God both endorses a great deal of suffering in our world and is a total uninvolved no show. At this point I am genuinely surprised there are those who intellectually justify the literal truth of Christianity, but I have even more to say.

Specifically, I’d like to talk about this guy Satan. In the comments section of “Proving God Through Cosmology”, I got into a small conversation about Satan, or the Devil. This lead to the obvious question: Why Doesn’t God just kill Satan right now?

It seems like a complete no-brainer: the Bible talks about Satan being the source of tons of evil, and being a major reason why people are tempted into sin. While there is a lot of disagreement over the nature of Satan, it does seem that people acknowledge that the Devil is not someone we want to keep around, if possible.

And God is without excuse, as the standard Problem of Evil applies: God is benevolent and thus wants to eliminate anything evil, God is omnipotent and thus quite capable of eliminating Satan on the tiniest whim, and God certainly knows about Satan. It seems inescapably obvious that God and Satan should not be able to coexist.

And to make matters more interesting, the Bible specifically says that God will remove Satan at some point:

When the thousand years are over, Satan will be released from his prison and will go out to deceive the nations in the four corners of the earth—Gog and Magog—and to gather them for battle. In number they are like the sand on the seashore. They marched across the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of God’s people, the city he loves. But fire came down from heaven and devoured them. And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever. — Revelation 20: 7-10

What is Going On?

So to re-cap: here we have the Devil, the very personification of evil. According to Christianity, he exists and goes around deceiving us and tempting us into doing terrible things. God clearly wants to kill him someday, and the Bible declares that he will do so. Yet he hasn’t done so, yet. This certainly does seem puzzling. What is stopping an omnipotent God?

Remember here that God is omniscient and can see the future. God knew ahead of time what Satan would do the moment he created Satan — the moment he created a being so crazy, malevolent, and irrational that he thought it would be a good idea to rise up and rebel against the most powerful and most good thing in the universe. (Does Satan know something we don’t? If God is perfect, why would people rebel against him?) Thus God intentionally set up all this evil.

As always, the standard excuses don’t apply:

“Satan cannot be killed.” Oddly enough, this argument actually has been advanced, and appeals to the fact that Satan has a soul, and souls are eternal. However, there still seems to be no reason why God can’t end a soul, or at least imprison it somewhere (Hell) where the soul can do no more harm, so the excuse at best just changes the question to “Why doesn’t God just send Satan to Hell right now?”. Additionally, God, knowing everything that would happen, could have just not created God in the first place. Or he could have created a type of Satan that could be killed.

“Satan is necessary to test us via temptation.” This doesn’t square with God’s omniscience, since God can automatically and infallibly predict what it is that we would do in response to any scenario without needing the scenario played out in real life (given that God “knows people’s hearts”, and thus can gauge all of their intentions). Also, it’s not as if an omnipotent being is so short on time that he requires a middleman (the Devil) to accomplish his objectives.

“God must respect Satan’s free will.” This does sound initially plausible, but respecting free will doesn’t explain why you can’t intervene. Would it be the violation of a murderer’s free will to kill them before they manage to kill other people? Hardly, and Satan is no different. God can give people the choice to commit evil acts and still stop them from actually harming people — including Satan.

“God needs Satan to show us what evil looks like.” So God is so terrible that we can only recognize his goodness when comparing him to the most malevolent entity ever? Makes sense to me, but I’m not sure that’s what you would want to endorse. We recognize what evil looks like in our every day lives from observing murders and hurricanes. I certainly don’t know what the Devil adds to that, given that we never get to meet the guy or see him in person. (Funny that everything the Devil does is so indirect as to be untestable…)

“God needs to have an adversary.” A perfect being doesn’t need anything, and creating your own villan just so you can fight it is so hopelessly contrived and arbitrary, especially when other people are forced to suffer just so you can play out the hero role. If this excuse is truly the reason why God made and allows Satan, he is a tragic character worthy of pity, not worship.

“It’s the fault of sinners that Satan can do evil anyway.” Right, if only we could resist his temptations! I’m not sure what it is that Satan does to tempt us, whether it is mind manipulation or more subtle deception, but he still would be guilty of aiding and abetting under any court system. The fact that people can be deceived does not excuse deception. For the same reason that people leaving their stuff unsecured does not excuse thievery and people dressing in revealing clothing does not excuse rape, people being open to deception does not excuse the Devil.

“Satan was necessary for The Fall.” This excuse is so bad I will need an entire paragraph to eviscerate it and demolish more of Christianity along the way. See below.

Was Satan Needed for The Fall?

First off, the Fall as a story is incredibly silly. We have two people, Adam and Eve… now of course, they didn’t literally exist, so why we would also need a literal Devil to allow for a metaphorical fall is beyond me. But roll with it.

Two people, Adam and Eve. And they have no knowledge of good or evil, yet God tells them that they must obey him and not eat from a certain tree… that it would be evil of them not to. And then God places the tree right within their reach, and best of all allows the serpent (who could or could not be the Devil, depending on who you ask) into the garden and let’s him deceive Eve into eating the apple.

And of course, God knew all of this would happen ahead of time, being omniscient. Thus the Garden of Eden Fall story is as ridiculous as how God wouldn’t allow people to build a Tower of Babel of a specific height because they might reach heaven, yet allows us nowadays to have a space program. Maybe God relocated Heaven to a safer distance?

Why Would God Want a Fall?

This question makes it clear that the Fall was all part of God’s plan, and that he specifically created Satan so that the Fall could occur. Now while this does seem an inescapable conclusion based on God’s ability to see the Fall ahead of time and ability to prevent the Fall should he have wanted to do so, it also exposes a really weird flaw in Christianity — God set us Eve up for an inescapable failure, and then blames Eve for it, and then blames Adam for Eve’s mistake, and then blames us today for something that our thousand-of-years-ago not-actually-existing-in-history ancestors did. Wonderful. It’s like God is playing “stop hitting yourself” with us just for kicks.

One might sugget that the Fall was necessary for the whole Jesus thing where God stepped in to save us from our own sins, as if sacrificing an innocent man can make guilty people not guilty. (Try going to court and asking if Jesus can go to jail in your place.) But this would make God into a contrived and arbitrary sham — he decided to sacrifice himself to himself in order to save us from himself. It’s not like our sinful nature was unexpected.

Now that the Fall is Over, Why Do We Still Need Satan?

Even all that aside, though, the Fall is still not an excuse: because now that the Fall is over and the atonement occurred, what more use do we have for the embodiment of evil to still be walking around? Even if the Fall could be considered a reason to create Satan in the first place (albeit a really silly one), why does God not kill Satan?

I’m sure you have an excuse, but you’ll notice that it now (very probably) has nothing to do with the Fall. So we’re off somewhere else.

A Retreat to The Great Unknown

Now we get into some even crazier excuses. They would go something like this:

The Argument from Authority: “God is absolutely sovereign over all of his creation. God’s ways are not our ways, and calling into question God’s plan is to call into question God himself. It is not wise to question his right to do exactly as he pleases. Psalm 18:30 says God is perfect, and you dare criticize perfection? God created us, so he can do whatever he wants with us. If God wants us all tortured severely, he would be in his rights to do so. Our responsibility is to submit to God and do whatever he says, whether we like it or not.”

The Argument from Infallibility: “God is perfect, so whatever God does must be perfect. Whatever plan god has will be the best one possible, resulting in justice being satisfied and righteousness being glorified. Calling into question God’s plan is calling into question perfection, and you cannot challenge perfection — we simply have no basis by which to challenge God. God can simply not be measured by our feeble standards — God cannot do anything wrong, and we must acknowledge this.”

The Argument from Mystery: “God works in mysterious ways, and we shouldn’t expect our fallible and sinful minds to be able to understand divine perfection. God simply must have a reason to allow Satan to continue to exist, even if we do not or cannot know what this reason is.”

These excuses come up so often for so many questions of theology that I’m not going to deal with them here, but rather in my next essay.

God Will Do it All, Eventually

And it’s not just Satan that we’re wondering about. Christianity promises us a second coming of Jesus, when all will be restored in some sort of kingdom of Heaven on Earth, where everyone exists in the best possible world. Such a second coming would be the end of all the problems of needless suffering, of God being hidden, and of religion being confused, since we would now finally have indisputable proof of the one true religion, and be able to talk to God directly and settle all disagreements on his nature or wishes.

It’s odd enough to notice that God isn’t solving these problems, thus providing large amounts of evidence for his unfortunate nonexistence. The excuses then get made for why God wants to stay uninvolved, citing “free will” or “it’s all a test” or something. But these excuses immediately stop when we notice that God will be coming back someday — whether it be a violation of our free will or an end to the tests.

So if God can come back without there being any problems, why does he not do so now? Why are we always waiting for someday in the future, going generation by generation of people who swore Jesus would come back in their generation.

God seems to be taking his sweet time not just with the Devil, but with everything. The only reason this could be true is to be some sort of ad hoc excuse for why a perfect God would create an imperfect world. It will all just get fixed sometime, we just won’t know when.

And if God is both omnipotent and omniscient, then there is no reason why this would be occurring, since God automatically knows what everyone will do and if they will accept or reject Jesus prior to them doing so. If God is a perfect being, he has nothing to wait for, and can do whatever he wants now. And it’s not like he has to worry about sin, since he can just get rid of it. Thus we have a tension between what we know of God’s character and the fact that we clearly don’t see this being displayed.

This contradiction means that the Biblical God cannot exist, and Christianity is false.

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