Saturday, October 9, 2010

Is God Selfish and Vindictive?

There aren't many people I can count on more to dodge questions or commit fallacies than Answers in Genesis. Their most recent newsletter asks this title question and their full article does little to answer it. They first quote Richard Dawkins as saying,
The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.
I agree with pretty much all of this statement. But instead of trying to refute each (or any) of these statements, they merely shift the subject like so:
Since Dawkins is so adamant in his atheism, perhaps he could explain why any of these things are wrong from an evolutionary point of view. After all, if his philosophical naturalistic beliefs are correct, then there is no such thing as right or wrong. Hence, there would be nothing bad about any of these attributes he assigns to the God of the Bible. Only the Bible provides the basis for morality, so it is hypocritical and illogical for Dawkins or other atheists to appeal to morality while attacking Scripture.
First, why does morality have to have anything to do with evolution? Why is there no such thing as right and wrong if there's no god? Why can only a god can provide a basis for morality? None of these questions are answered - just assumed to be true in the text. I don't want to go into too much detail about morality here because I've already done so somewhat before and probably will again soon. Suffice to say that judging God by common morality (agreed upon by pretty much all civilized societies), Yahweh is one of the most evil people in all of fiction for the reasons Dawkins describes. Even if it were true that somehow, we could never discern right and wrong without appealing to a higher power defined as good, Yahweh does not pass his own moral test. One cannot exclaim killing/murder (depending on what translation you read) to be wrong and command genocide. But more on that later.
First, since God is the Creator of all things, He gets to set the rules.
Be a little more clear. It would be true, in some sense, that he sets the rules in what we are and are not capable of, physically and mentally. But he has no power over morality in that he cannot simply define good as being "like his nature" any more than any other god could. Christians, if you found out one day that your God had been defeated by a more powerful super-God that Yahweh forgot to mention and he declared that, because he is in power, it is morally required to kill every one of your family members and drink their blood, would you consider that "good"? After all, the one with the biggest stick makes the rules! What... you don't agree? The obviously you don't consider the ruler to be the definition of morality - you just attribute it to him because you perhaps cannot think of any other reason we should be good or have any definition of morality without him. And that is unfortunate, but doesn't make it true.
Second, God is perfectly just and must judge sin.
How do you know he is just? Surely you must just be taking his word. Because if I told you that I sent everyone who didn't like me into the torture chamber to be beaten and burned until they die - simply for the fact they didn't accept me for who I was - you'd call me anything but just.
Third, all have sinned (Romans 3:23) and deserve death (Romans 6:23). The fact that God allows us to live at all demonstrates His mercy.
Right, because allowing us to live is so merciful, considering that there are all kinds of other merciful things that he could be doing, like: developing a cure for cancer, eradicating AIDS, solving world hunger, getting rid of Satan once and for all, or making Justin Beiber's voice finally change. The only person who thinks we should all die because we've done at least one wrong thing (or been born with a 'sin nature') is God, and it's already obvious to me and most other clear thinkers that he's not that just to begin with.
With that in mind, is it fair to call God selfish, demanding, and vindictive? Absolutely not! God created a perfect world and gave man dominion over it.
There's no way God created a perfect world. A perfect world, by definition, could never become imperfect. Obviously this world is less than perfect and that's a reflection on the thing who made it, if such a maker exists. You don't blame the plumber for faulty pipe manufacturing. And dominion? Explain T. rexes, grizzlies, and mountains.
If there were no eternal consequences for sin, then people would know they could act however they wanted, and the world would become even worse.
People always can act however they want. That isn't the point. The argument being made here is that if there is no eternal punishment, anyone can and should do whatever they want (terrible, evil, selfish things - I infer that this is what most Christians would do upon learning God doesn't exist). Compelling argument. You should try it sometime and tell me what your friends, family, neighbors, the cops, and the media think about your mental state.
God’s laws are not overbearing, but were given to protect us from others and from ourselves.
That's exactly what I think when I remember that the penalty for a child's disobedience to his parents was stoning. It's a shame that we aren't still practicing this today!
In the book of Joshua, God commands the Israelites to conquer several cities throughout the Promised Land and to kill every person in some of these towns. How can anyone possibly think of God as loving in light of these commands?
Please, do tell.
Approximately 400 years before these battles, God had given the land to Abraham and his descendants (through Isaac and Jacob). However, God also told Abraham that his descendants would serve the Egyptians for 400 years before taking possession of the land. The reason for this delay is that “the iniquity (sin) of the Amorites [was] not yet complete” (Genesis 15:16). God graciously gave the people dwelling in the Promised Land 400 years to turn from their sinful ways. When they did not, He used the Israelites as an instrument of judgment.
Oh, ok. God promised the Israelites land that was already occupied because instead of just giving them an easy passageway to a land uninhabited, he thought it would be more fun to have them fight and kill their way through men, women, children and babies. Make no mistake, they had 400 years to change their ways. But they didn't, and the best, most humane, and most enlightened way to deal with it was to slaughter everyone. Sounds very Christian of them.
Second, in many of these battles, the people were commanded to first make an offer of peace (Deuteronomy 20:10–12). It is only in the cases where the people of the land were exceedingly wicked that the Israelites were commanded to utterly destroy them (Deuteronomy 20:16–18).
Does it really make sense that every nation they come up against to conquer would want to make peace with them, especially when the Israelites are instructed to keep those people as slaves if they agree? What would you do if some Muslim extremists came over here and told us to fight them or become slaves? I feel like I shouldn't even have to spell these things out. No, any nation with an army capable of fighting and enough brains to realize what slavery is would immediately reject such an offer. And in most cases, God instructs his people to wipe out everything that lived in the land. This includes all innocent beings like children and babies, not to mention innocent non-children. Some Christians/Jews will object and say, "There is no one innocent!" or "God has the right to give the death penalty to whomever he chooses!"

Response to #1: If you think you're just as guilty as anyone in one of those nations, perhaps you should consider killing yourself so that you receive just as much pure justice doled out by God as they did.
Response to #2: Power does not equal right. If it's wrong for Hitler to kill a million Jews, it's wrong for God to kill a million Canaanites/Amalekites/Hittites/Perizzites/Jebusites/Hivites.
However, in every single case, God provided the means of salvation for those who would trust Him.
"Convert or we'll kill you!" - Always a convincing argument.