Is god good?

If we’re going to ask that question, the first thing that has to be established is: whose “good” are we using as a standard?  If human good is to be the benchmark, then the task is relatively easy.  Whatever good god recognizes, however, will introduce a degree of vagary which may be insuperable.

Regardless of which deity is supervising this reality, he/she/it cannot be said to be good by human standards in the slightest measure, and one need look no further than the world’s children for evidence.  Entirely too much of the young population of this planet are subjected to the kinds of deprivation, indifference, abuse, torture, and resultant loss of life which the average adult of the US would find abhorrent and intolerable.  Children starve in Darfur and Bangladesh; they are used as sexual playthings in the Orient and elsewhere; they are collateral damage on the battlefields of Syria and conscripted into renegade armies to be used as cannon fodder in Africa by uncaring warlords such as Joseph Kony and others like him.  The utter lack of protection rendered by any form of supreme being and indeed the complete indifference held toward the youngest and most vulnerable may be summarized as follows:

If I could stop a man from raping a child, I would. That's the difference between me and your God.
-- Tracie Harris

Man’s inhumanity to man, whether minor or adult, and the failure by any god to defend against it is well documented here, but what of the deity’s own sins against those least able to manage against that being’s onslaught?  Childhood diseases and disorders, whether genetic or of bacterial or viral origin, pose as much of a threat to their existence as those created by humankind.  Afflictions such as mumps, rubella, and chicken pox are bad enough, but these only scratch the surface.  Polio, assorted cancers, autism, diabetes and too many others daily rob a child of any opportunity to live his or her life frequently even as their lives have started.  If that’s not enough, genetic disorders such as Down’s syndrome or spina bifida can start them with a severe disadvantage before they’ve even left the uterus.  If, as the song says, Jesus loves all the little children of the world, he could show his devotion a bit better than to saddle them with such weight.

Of course, now the believers have to retort with such zingers as: “The world is fallen and this is the penalty for the sin of Adam,” and “Who are we to judge god?” and “God’s ways are not our ways.”  My responses to each, respectively, are: “Where is the evidence of the fall of this world outside of the bible?”, “Who do I HAVE to be to judge your precious god?” and finally, “Okay – What ARE his ways?!?”  Ask that last of a hundred people who style themselves as biblical scholars and I suspect you’d get 101 different answers, amusing considering the repeated declaration we have heard that “no one can know the mind of god.”  In theory, what we’re supposed to do is observe the dictate of the lord’s prayer: “Thy will be done,” and live in submission to something unknown and unknowable. 

Or … we can assert ourselves for our children’s sake and our own against a world which, for all appearances and evidence, has neither god nor interest in our continued existence and make our own way by our own devices.  I vote for Door No. 2, myself.

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Comment by Joan Denoo on December 20, 2014 at 2:18pm

Grinning Cat and Loren, that is the clincher. A good god would have one message, and that would be of creating an environment of solving problems and conflicts so that all would benefit. There would be no god giving promises to one group of people and not to another. There would be no slaughtering of neighbors by god's supposed hand, or by instructions from some ethereal god. There would be a "peace pipe" type of god, talking through differences, finding common ground. 

To submit to the god's of the past 6,000 years +- is to become a party to a scheme of power over others, for political and economic gain. 

A good god would not foster hate-mongering of one race against another, one gender against another, or one sexual orientation over another. The fingerprints of human beings smear all the documents, ancient and modern, with selfishness and notions of dominionism. 

Thank you gentlemen, for a lively morning. 

Comment by Loren Miller on December 20, 2014 at 11:27am

You make an excellent point, GC.  A loving and caring god would not want confusion or ambiguity, at least not from where I sit.  There would be ONE CONSISTENT STORY, regardless of culture or country.  Hell, there would even be evidence to support said story (gee whiz, what a concept!).  Instead, we have exactly what you pointed out: a miasma of different, conflicting stories which have nothing to support them and make even less sense.

As for "new gods," thank you, no.  Reality is plenty for me.

Comment by Grinning Cat on December 20, 2014 at 11:09am

If there were an evil god out to hurt people, a good plan would have been leading us into thousands of conflicting "One True" religions that inspire false hopes, acquiescence to terrible things rather than working to improve our lives in the real world, and horrendous religious wars. (But the world looks exactly as we'd expect with no gods -- we're quite capable of doing all that on our own!)

If there were a good god who's simply not very powerful -- as in Rabbi Harold Kushner's When Bad Things Happen to Good People -- we can live well with or without it.

I've heard the proposal that humanity could use new gods that (like Santa Claus or the Geico gecko) are deliberately "virtual", that are fictional characters, but (unlike Santa) "know" they're fictions; who'd be spokes"people" for the good of humanity as a whole, who would reach people's social, emotional, "old mammal" brains in the way words and reason and logic often don't.

Comment by Loren Miller on December 20, 2014 at 9:57am

Thank you, Joan ... and if you like this one, please click on the "Next Post" icon up there.  At the risk of promoting myself, I think you'll find another goodie.

Comment by Joan Denoo on December 20, 2014 at 9:53am

WOW! Loren, you offer another terrific zinger. This goes to Twitter, Facebook family and friends for certain. Thanks, dear friend. 

Comment by Loren Miller on December 20, 2014 at 7:46am

@Tom Ideology is like dogma - it's easy to adopt and not have to think about.  Thought-out positions and reasons for those positions are a lot harder, because they do take time and consideration ... and I'm not convinced that the average believer is up to it.

Oh, and catholicism is as dogmatic as they come, for sure, and fundamentalist after their own fashion, never mind their penchant for literal cannibalism!

Comment by tom sarbeck on December 20, 2014 at 7:41am

Got it, Loren; thanks. I too have no patience with people as dogmatic as that.

I meet them in political campaigns, where their ideologies are more often economic than religious. They didn't just go away and neither did I so I tried to figure out their dogmatism.

I came to see ideology as a protection for weakly held views and realized that Catholic schools, like those I went to, produce many such people: fearful. I came to see Catholicism as another kind of fundamentalism.

Comment by Loren Miller on December 19, 2014 at 9:42pm

@Tom What I was referring to was your subsequent statement:

He as much as said he has no empathy for those who are feeling the pain.

I don't hear that at all.  What I hear is Matt's lack of patience with a bunch of inappropriately privileged believers who think they can excuse behavior of their deity (and too often, themselves as well) which is anti-social at minimum and downright criminal and predatory at worst.  These are the people who want Euthyphro's Dilemma to go away (presuming they even know what it is), because their god can't make a mistake or do anything immoral.  I share his disdain for such people, as well as his revulsion for the behavior of their deity (presuming the dirtbag even exists, which of course he doesn't).

Genocide of entire peoples, including the systematic extinction of the human race (with eight exceptions), the justification of treatment of women as property by godly edict, the castigation of homosexuals without any kind of explanation other than forbidding such relationships, and too many other thoughtless proclamations to mention are part and parcel of Yahweh's precious holy book, and as a result, the indoctrinated morality of his followers.  That was what Matt was decrying in his statement, from where I sit.

Comment by tom sarbeck on December 19, 2014 at 8:53pm

@Loren,

...(and I haven't heard [Matt D.] make the statement you refer to)....

The statement was in this discussion's third post--by you.

Comment by Loren Miller on December 19, 2014 at 6:14am

I don't know about Matt (and I haven't heard him make the statement you refer to), but my response would be: "No, I'm tired of the people making these inane statements."

I'm particularly reminded of his story of being involved with a four-day seminar / debate at a Church of Christ event where I suspect he was the sole atheistic POV and not only holding his own, but having people asking his questions after and opining that he had better points than the church representatives had.  His ultimate point was that it IS worth the time debating and challenging such people, less because of the challengers than the others who may be listening.

Say what you want about Matt; he is not a quitter.  He's a counter-puncher.

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