Even If I DID Believe ...

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Dec 30, 1983, 5:52:40 PM12/30/83
I am not a Christian. In my discussions of this fact with Christians, I
have repeatedly run into one major misunderstanding. The Christians assume
that if I believed the Bible were true, I would become a Christian; that is,
they believe that my reason for not being a Christian is that I don't
believe in their god. This is not the case.

One disclaimer: The thesis of this essay is that even if a God as described
in the Bible does exist, he is not fit for worship due to his low moral
standards. Consequently, I speak sometimes as if I did believe the Bible,
when in fact I do not.

If I had undeniable proof of the existence of Yahweh, aka Jehovah, aka
Adonai, aka El Shaddai, aka Yahweh Elohim, the father of Jesus and the
ancient leader of the Semitic peoples, I still would not worship the
bastard. If an angel appeared to me and removed my appendectomy scar so I
could never deny the reality of divine power, I still would not be a
Christian. My primary reason for not being a Christian or Jew has nothing
to do with my lack of belief in their god. My primary reason is that the
Bible is a disgusting book describing the behavior of a god without the
morality of an average high school student.

That God does what he wants, when he wants, without even an attempt at
self-justification, and all for what reason? According to Paul, all for his
own greater glory. Oh, how charming. For his own glory he condemns
billions to eternal torment, drowns millions of innocent beasts and
thousands of children, orders the slaughter of entire cities down to the
last man, woman, and child, creates a race that he knows is flawed and will
hurt itself (so that in their pain they can worship him better), refuses to
deal with any other god on a friendly basis, restricts the normal expression
of the sexual function, rains doom on those who dare to try to be as
knowledgable as he is, and so on.

Jesus preaching love in no way atones for these many hideous crimes; lest we
forget, it was at the time of Jesus that he created Hell. This cruellest of
all concentration camps (certainly far worse than the ones created by the
Nazis) was at no time mentioned in the Old Testament, and the wrathful and
threatening god of the Old Testament would hardly have omitted any chance to
terrify his worshippers.

I have heard some Christians who believe that there is no everburning Hell
in their religion, that the "lake of fire" is purely destructive, that
sinners will be annihilated rather than tortured after the Last Judgment.
Sometimes, they claim that medieval Catholics created that "myth", and that
they would revile any god who made this concentration camp.

Well, get ready to start reviling then. The myth of Hell was not created in
the Middle Ages. It is explicitly stated in a set of books called the
Synoptic Gospels, you know, the ones by Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Since some
people don't seem to be very familiar with these books, usually considered
the cornerstone of Christianity, I'll fill them in.

Matthew 18:8-9 has Jesus saying, "If your hand or your foot should cause you
to sin, cut it off and throw it away: it is better for you to enter into
life crippled or lame, than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into
eternal fire." A little while later, in 18:34-35 to be exact, Jesus
finishes up a parable about an unforgiving debtor with: "And in his anger
the master handed him over to the torturers till he should pay all his debt.
And that is how my heavenly Father will deal with you unless you each
forgive your brother from your heart." Not clean killing -- you will be
handed over to the torturers. In the parable of the wedding feast, Matthew
22:1-14, Jesus concludes with "Then the king said to the attendants, 'Bind
him hand and foot and throw him out into the dark, where there will be
weeping and grinding of teeth.'" The king didn't say, "Execute him", but
bind him and throw him into a painful place. This is echoed in Mat. 24:51,
in almost the same words, and again in Mat. 25:30, again with similar words.
Finally (for Matthew), we have Mat. 25:41-46, on the Last Judgment. "Next
he will say to those on his left hand, 'Go away from me, with your curse
upon you, to the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels... And
they will go away to eternal punishment, and the virtuous to eternal life.'"

My point is proven, so I won't bore you with the quotes from Mark and Luke;
however, check out Mark 9:43, Mark 9:48-49, Luke 13:27-28, and Luke
16:23-26 if you still doubt.

You hear a lot from Christians about Yahweh's "infinite compassion and
mercy". Tell it to the Midianites. Numbers 31 is a classic example of
wholesale slaughter and rape under the direction of Yahweh. A sample of
this delightful tale: "They waged the campaign against Midian, as Yahweh had
ordered Moses, and they put every male to death.... The sons of Israel took
the Midianite women captive with their young children, and plundered all
their cattle, all their flocks and all their goods. They set fire to the
towns where they lived and all their encampments.... Moses was enraged with
the commanders of the army ... who had come back from this military
expedition. He said, 'Why have you spared the life of all the women? ...
So kill all the male children. Kill also all the women who have slept with
a man. Spare the lives only of the young girls who have not slept with a
man, and take them for yourselves.'" Yes, friends, this is infinite mercy
and compassion for you. I particularly like the way that Moses got upset
with them for sparing women and male children, but allowed the young girls
to be kept for later raping. If only humans could keep to such lofty
standards without the necessity of divine revelation.

I could go on for quite a while in this vein. I don't think the firstborn
in Egypt during the captivity would have agreed with the verdict of
compassion and mercy (Ex. 11:5,12:29), particularly since it was due to
Yahweh's hardening of Pharoah's heart in the first place that made this
neccessary. Also, with omnipotence, Yahweh could have teleported the Jews
out of captivity without bloodshed, or put the Egyptians to sleep while they
left, but no. That wouldn't be gory and exciting enough for him.

Then there are the charming instructions about women taken in war, from
Deut. 21:10-14. And there is Deuteronomy 28:20-46, a long stream of
invectives and curses straight from the prophet's mouth, all about the nasty
things Yahweh will do if you upset him a tad. The entire book of Joshua is
a long sequence of atrocities. I have not given all these quotes for space
reasons -- I urge you to look them up for yourself. If you are not shocked,
then your moral standards must be low indeed.

Of course, you will sometimes hear rationalizations of this slaughter.
There are two major forms: the corruption argument and the mercy argument.
The former says that those slaughtered were evil and deserving of their
fate; the latter says that since they were religiously incorrect, it was a
mercy to terminate their existence.

The corruption argument simply does not hold up. The people slaughtered in
the Old Testament were almost uniformly blameless (with a few exceptions, of
course -- for instance, the Sodomites violated the conventions of
hospitality.) Usually, no justification is offered beyond the fact that
since they were of another tribe, it was OK to kill them.

As to the mercy argument: They shoot horses, don't they? However, people
are not animals to be destroyed against their will in the name of mercy. If
I don't claim to be suffering, and don't ask to die, neither you nor any god
has the right to decide that you know better. If you tried to do this to
me, I would shoot you; if a god tried, well, the only weapon I would have
would be withholding my worship.

Most of us, given omnipotence, would be able to do a far better job than
Yahweh. What would you do if given omnipotence? If your answer is anything
other than "abolish world hunger", there's something more than a little
skewed in your perception of mankind. There is no question that this is the
greatest evil in the world today. The second thing would be to abolish
disease, right? This doesn't take "infinite mercy", just normal compassion
and a bit of common sense. God's supposedly infinite mercy is apparently
the same thing as no mercy at all.

What makes this particularly unforgivable is that even Jesus's own standards
demand feeding of the poor. See Matthew 26:35, in which it is stated that
the blessed feed the hungry, and that the damned do not. Does the old saw
about "practicing what you preach" not apply to Yahweh? Is his hypocrisy
not a sin?

One popular rationalization of this is that for Yahweh to feed all the
hungry would somehow (and it is never explained how) make it more difficult
for people to get into Heaven. Sure, and another reason is that it would
make the quality of newspapers worse, right? You can't just say that two
things are connected when there is no apparent or explained link between them!

The charge against Yahweh of infecting us with disease is particularly
strong. God made these micro-organisms, and made us subject to them. If I
made a bunch of plague germs and set them loose, you would rightly hold me
accountable. Since (according to Genesis) all disease comes from Yahweh, I
hold him similarly accountable.

Suppose you were a god and there were other gods. What would you do? What
I would try to do is the same thing I do as a person among other people --
try to make friends or at least truce with as many of them as possible. The
jealous Judeo-Christian god does the opposite.

Some people feel that Yahweh is the only god, and therefore cannot be
faulted for not having friendly relations with other gods. This idea is a
fairly modern invention: that not only is he the best god, but the only one.
Yahweh is repeatedly referred to as "our God" in the Pentateuch, and there
is no implication that he is the only real one. Also, try Deut. 5:7-9. It
is psychotic to be jealous of nonexistent beings. The statement "You shall
have no gods except me" clearly implies that the contrary is possible.

Suppose you were an omnipotent god and there were no other gods. What would
you do? Perform a continual sequence of verifiable miracles; after all,
this doesn't require any effort, and keeps people from delusion. No such
luck in the case of Jehovah. He demands absolute fidelity without any
demonstration of his existence, beyond some visionary manifestations of the
sort that you can get from any religion.

Christians commonly rationalize this in one of two ways. First, they claim
that there is a virtue in believing something without proof; that is, faith
in itself is held to be a virtue, and Yahweh doesn't want to remove our
opportunity to indulge in it. All I can say to this is that I do not
consider faith to be a virtue -- I consider it to be a sign of intellectual
weakness, and a significant barrier to scientific and other intellectual
progress. (I consider scientific progress desirable because it is so
efficacious in improving the quality of people's lives.) I see no virtue in
accepting a thing on faith, since it may well be false, and it is clearly
not a virtue to believe the false. Given the willingness to have faith, how
does one decide whether to put it in Christianity instead of Hinduism?
There is no way; you just have to cross your fingers and take the plunge.
Whichever choice you take, you will hear voices in your head, see divine
manifestations, and so on, so even once the plunge is taken there is no way
to know you are correct.

Second, there is the rationalization that scientific discovery would become
impossible if a continual stream of verifiable miracles were performed.
This argument denies the omnipotence of Yahweh. If he can do anything, he
can perform a sequence of miracles in such a way as to convince everyone of
his existence and not interfere with scientific discovery at all. The only
things he can't do are logical absurdities such as making 2+2=5.

The point to remember here is that if we don't believe in him, we go to
Hell, and this is a greater evil than a lack of the "virtue" of faith or a
stunting of science, or anything else conceivable. If Yahweh is concerned
about the good, he will do what he can to keep us from Hell, and keeping
vital information from us is the exact opposite of this.

I have heard the claim that Yahweh does not restrict us from learning, that
he encourages us to learn all we can. Tell it to the workers at the Tower
of Babel. In case your memory fails you here, Gen. 11:6-7 says, "'So they
are all a single people with a single language!' said Yahweh. 'This is but
the start of their undertakings! There will be nothing too hard for them to
do. [ Horrors! -- tim ] Come, let us go down and confuse their language on
the spot so that they can no longer understand one another.'" Yahweh
deliberately acts to restrict man's capability for understanding.

One thing in particular would keep me from worshipping this god. That is
the fact that he desires worship. The only reason why this would be is that
he gets something out of worship, perhaps power, perhaps just pleasure. In
the former case, it would be totally unjustifiable for me to increase the
power of this hugely arrogant and malefic being. In the latter, well, I
don't LIKE this deity, and I don't think it deserves such a reward for its
heinous career.

Some of the responses I have heard to this sort of argument in the past are
shown below, with my answers.

"You can't judge God by the same standards as man." In that case, why is it
that I keep getting told that God is good? Are there two meanings of the
word "good", one of which forbids murder, deliberate starvation, infecting
people with disease, and so on, and another which allows these things? I
suggest that there is already a word for the second meaning. That word is
"evil". If you think that it's OK to worship an evil god, that's your
business, but you can't expect me to do the same.

One particularly curious rationalization here is that "starvation and
disease and all the other evils of the world come from breaking God's laws."
Starvation comes from not having enough food. Disease comes from exposure
to various nasty micro-organisms, and from genetic infirmities. If you can
show me how these two things come from breaking god's laws, I will be
greatly surprised. Perhaps at the root they are caused by Adam and Eve
falling from grace, but you can't hold some starving infant in Namibia
responsible for the actions of two long-dead people, any more than you can
hold me responsible for the acts of Jack the Ripper. There just isn't
sufficient connection to establish guilt.

"Everything God does is really good, even though we can't always see that it
is." There is no possible amount of good that can counterbalance the
deliberate, perpetual starvation of the human race. Maybe we Americans have
it so good that we can't see this, but most of the people in the world are
starving. Children are dying by the truckload, not for any sin, but just
because there isn't enough food for them. If you could see these children,
and you had food, you would give food to them. (Either that, or you are an
unfeeling monster.) Not so with the omniscient god you worship. He sees
their bellies bloat, sees them run out of nutrients and rot alive, sees
their brains dying, and doesn't do a damn thing, despite the fact that he
has an unlimited supply of food to give. Another example of his mercy.

Christians have been claiming that there will be wonderful events, that will
more than make up for the abominable pain and suffering on Earth, for about
two thousand years now. It is clear from the gospels that Jesus thought
that it was about to happen shortly after his death. Before the Christians,
the Zoroastrians were saying it. Yet the world still turns as it has, and
there is still no reason to think of these claims as other than pipe-dreams
to mollify the masses.

"Don't ask such questions." People who say this are cowering slaves,
beneath my notice. They would as soon serve the devil as god in their
blindness and faith. No amount of evidence could convince them that the
devil was bad once they had decided to worship him; their basic assumption
is that they are correct, so they are untouchable by any rationality.

In closing, let's see how Yahweh/Jesus stands up to his own standards. In
Matthew 26:41-46, we hear the King, "Next he will say to those on his left
hand, 'Go away from me, with your curse upon you, to the eternal fire
prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you never gave
me food; I was thirsty and you never gave me anything to drink; I was a
stranger and you never made me welcome, naked and you never clothed me, sick
and in prison and you never visited me.' ... And they will go away to
eternal punishment, and the virtuous to eternal life."

In the light of this, your god himself is the worst of sinners; if there is
no double standard, he will be at the head of that line into eternal
punishment. He is guilty of every crime of which he accuses the damned.

I do not believe in the reality of Jehovah, except as a psychological
phenomenon, but if I did believe I would not worship that horror. It could
send me to the Hell it's made for those it dislikes, and I would walk in
proudly, knowing that I was no slave to be broken down by force.
Tim Maroney, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
duke!unc!tim (USENET), tim.unc@csnet-relay (ARPA)

Rich Rosen

Jan 3, 1984, 5:59:18 PM1/3/84
Tim puts forth some very important points about the nature of god as
described in the bible. Clearly if one is to accept the bible as a
*literal* document of universal historical truths, the evidence speaks
for itself as to the true nature of the beast.

Tim says right upfront "EVEN if I did believe", meaning (I assume) that
he does not actually believe that the god described in the bible does
indeed exist, but that if Dave Norris' proof was suddenly "uncovered",
this would fail to make a difference in Tim's belief system (and mine as
well) when it comes to god.

Given the way the bible portrays god, what does this imply about the
nature of Judaeo-Christian thought? Either 1) there IS a vengeful,
spiteful (but of course loving) god who will burn us all slowly if
we disobey his will, or 2) an effort was made (and is still being made)
to convince people that such a god exists and that they should obey
a set of (some good, some not so good) laws or else suffer eternal
damnation. Thus the real reason for obeying a set of laws (because
they benefit society as a whole: e.g., do unto others...) is masked
by the notion of "if you don't obey, you'll be turned into molten
jello for eternity!!!" By doing this, whimsical laws ("Thou shalt not
have sexual relations with frozen food") can be harnessed under the same
umbrella as the other societally beneficial laws.

This sounds to me more like the way one treats children than the way
one treats adults. Can you imagine telling an adult: Don't go into the
room that says "DANGER", because a monster will eat you. Can you
imagine telling an adult: Don't break the law, because a policeman will
catch you and take you to jail. Unfortunately, I think we CAN imagine
that second scenario, even though it is hardly any different from the first.
That seems to be the way people (children and adults, both) are indoctrinated
as to why they should obey the laws of society at large. What happens, in this
case, when a person knows that there is no chance of being caught, and breaks
the law anyway. My view: if you can't teach a person a rational reason for
obeying the law, either the law isn't worth upholding, or society can't do its
job of educating its members to be good citizens.

Come to think of it, that sort of hogwash I described above is no way to treat
children, either. The same rules apply. Still we go on instilling fear
instead of instilling reason. This is MY argument with this sort of
religious thinking and the reason I am extremely fearful of its revival in
modern society.
Rich Rosen pyuxn!rlr


Jan 5, 1984, 12:43:28 PM1/5/84
Tim Maroney writes:

What would you do if given omnipotence? If your answer is
anything other than "abolish world hunger", there's
something more than a little skewed in your perception of

Yes, only HOW?

My first thought was that one could simply create food for the
hungry. At first, this works. But people keep having children.
What then? Make the world bigger? When do you stop? Do you
keep going until the universe is full of human flesh and then
make the universe bigger? Is there room for trees and stars?
I've another name for this solution: cancer!

So now one must control human population as well. Ok, simply
ensure that no-one wants to have too many children. This is
worldwide brainwashing, but . . . it's in a good cause. Just
determine the optimal number of humans, persuade humans never to
have more children than will maintain the optimum. This
requires a steady stream of small miracles, which seems
inelegant, but . . . it's in a good cause. What's this?
They're working on methods of in vitro fertilization? They want
more kids? Quick! Kill those scientists!

Maybe some really nasty plagues will solve the problem.

Oh, to Hell with all this! They can feed all of their people;
they can see the need. Why don't they?

Seriously: it is within the power of humankind to cure world
hunger; we lack only the will. How can we accuse god for not
doing what we clearly don't want? How can we accuse god because
we freely do evil when we have the power to do good? The
ability to do good is the greatest gift a god could give his
children; how dare we curse god because we misuse his gift?

Randolph Fritz

"Knock, knock."
"Who's there?"
"United Parcel. Got a package here."
"Who's it from?"
"Asbestos Mailbox, Inc."
"Ah. Put it down by the computer."

Dave Sherman

Jan 8, 1984, 10:49:27 AM1/8/84
I'm staying out of the "Even if I did believe" discussion (for now,
anyway), but I must respond to Randolph Fritz's suggestion that
an omnipotent Deity couldn't stop people from producing enough children
to use up the additional food.

Randolph, if you think about the definition of omnipotence, you'll
realize that doesn't make any sense. Obviously, omnipotence implies
the ability to (1) create *enough* food for everyone in the world, no
matter how much that "everyone" grows (just as there is enough air
for everyone, for example), and (2) limit human reproduction, if that
is an appropriate way to stop us from using up what food is available.
I'm sure there are lots of other creative ways in which omnipotence
can be used to stop world hunger. You're working with a very narrow
view of omnipotence.

Dave Sherman

Laura Creighton

Jan 8, 1984, 7:11:17 PM1/8/84
it is perfectly reasonable to accuse a god of doing evil though we have the
power to do good and don't. I don't think that I am omniscient and
omnipotent, but that is the claim that is made for God.

First of all, we can do evil because we have free will. This is a pretty
universal belief of Christianity, though the old-time Calvinists won't
agree. But what good is free will? If it is what keeps me from doing
the good all the time, then I sure don't want it? I would rather do
the good all the time.

this world has bugs. If god built it, he built it with bugs. Free will
may be the greatest of the bugs, but there are littler ones like
world hunger and earthquakes and mosquitos to consider. If you hand
me a piece of code that has bugs in it, I will be perfectly willing
to point the ones I notice out to you. This does not mean that I am
saying that had I written the code there would be no bugs, just that
i know bugs when i see them.

if god is omnipotent, then he could have created a world where the
human beings couldn't sin, and the foxes didn't eat the rabbits
and we all got all of our food needs from photosynthesis like the
plants. it is arguable that human beings who couldn't sin are not
human beings, by definition. (this gets back to -- could Jesus
sin? If he couldn't, was he true man?). I make no claims to
omniscience either, so no doubt making us all plants would have
its own moral problems, which I cannot see, but if god can do anything
then he can create a world where there are none of these evils by

If you are known as a great expert in DZ drivers and you send me a
smelly piece of code that crashes my machine, I will get pissed off
as well. I *KNOW* that you can do better.

In conclusion, I don't believe that an omniscient and omnipotent
god created the world. I do not believe that the world was created.
So I don't stay up nights railing at the injustice of a God that
could do anything and stuck me with this. but if i DID believe....

Laura Creighton

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