Sunday, May 31, 2009

What's god's excuse for pain and bad days?

The problem that I see with the whole "one needs coldness in order to appreciate warmth" idea is that I don't think it's actually true. To take the most obvious example, do people who live in Hawaii their whole lives deal with the same discomfort that people who live in Siberia their whole lives must deal with? I don't think they do. I think Hawaiians can easily appreciate their own weather without having to know what it feels like in Siberia. And I think the same can be said for any other example that this coldness/warmth analogy can be used for. (For example, I don't first need to be paraplegic in order to enjoy my ability to move around and not be confined to a wheelchair).

Now, it might be true that a Siberian would be able to enjoy an average day in Hawaii better than a Hawaiian would (or that a paraplegic who suddenly gained the ability to move his limbs would enjoy it more so than those of us who sometimes take such luxuries for granted would), but I hardly think that this increase in happiness would be enough to outweigh all the cold days (or paralysis) one would need to endure in order to achieve it. And honestly, I have my doubts that this would even be the case at all. It seems to me that bad days and sadness damage people and make it even more difficult for them to enjoy the good days than they would have been able to had they just had normal lives.

Even if humans are constructed in such a way that we can't be happy all the time (which i don't think is actually the case), does that really mean that that's any sort of "law of the universe"? wouldn't it really just be a part of being human? In other words, just because people DO tend to become complacent with good things and sometimes need a bad experience to get them to appreciate how good they've got it, why is that any sort of a mindset that a god would NEED to include in people in order to keep from disobeying the laws of logic? If a god had made his people able to be happy all the time, without ever requiring sadness to compare it to, then would that god really be in any sort of violation of the physical laws of the universe? I don't see how (though, if your answer has something to do with freewill, I'm getting to that). And of course, that doesn't even begin to touch up on the question of,,, How omnipotent could a god really be if he has to follow laws of physics and logic anyway? Such a god would clearly be one who had no say in what the laws of the universe would be. Not much of a god at all, truth be told.

And so the question still remains, why would a god have instilled this duality in us, making it impossible for us to be happy on a consistent basis?

Before we delve into possible reasons for why god would have "had" to have done this, let's look at the implications of this. Will it be just as impossible for people to have perfect, continuously happy lives once they're in heaven? Or will they be able to appreciate heaven fully simply because they've already experienced imperfection while here on earth? And if this is the case, then what does that say about aborted fetuses and miscarried babies who go straight to heaven without ever even being able to experience a bad day? (And if you're thinking that being vacuumed out of a womb is traumatic, then know that it is not until the third week of development that anything remotely nerve-like appears, and so quite factually speaking, it would be impossible for such an embryo ever to be able to feel pain or have bad thoughts, despite what sort of a "soul" they might already be in possession of.)

Would these aborted and miscarried individuals not be able to enjoy heaven as much as everyone else there simply because they have no concept of badness? If so, then that's a markedly unfair thing to allow to happen (even for the god of the bible). I have trouble believing though that anyone would maintain such a position. But if it's not the case, then HOW will such individuals be able to experience happiness without first knowing sadness, and WHY isn't this something possible for the rest of us? --- Let me rephrase that last bit just to make my point clear. If aborted babies ARE IN FACT able to appreciate heaven to the full extent that everyone else is, despite their never having experienced anything bad, then that invalidates the idea that people can only experience perfection if they first know imperfection. In other words, the idea that fetuses enjoy heaven as much as other people do CONTRADICTS the idea that one must first know pain in order to experience joy. You cannot believe both.

Let's now leave behind the notion that one needs bad in order to appreciate good, since it's been pretty much entirely dismantled, and let's move on to the notion of freewill.

There are two ways in which freewill can be used to argue for why a god would allow evil to occur. One argument is that we can't be happy unless we have the freedom to make choices. Is this really true though? In many cases it's important to be able to choose between things because that's what allows us to get what we want. But if we only have one option, and it just so happens to be what we want, then isn't that all we need?

To illustrate this, allow me to propose the following hypothetical. Imagine that you're headed toward an ice cream store and are desperately craving banana ice cream. You've been to this store before, and you know that they offer three flavors (coconut and lime being the other two flavors). Upon arriving though, you learn that there was an inordinate amount of business done that day and that the store has run out of most of its ice cream. Now, without my revealing to you which flavors the store still has left in stock, ask yourself, which of the following two situations would you prefer (keeping in mind that banana ice cream is the flavor you most desire)?

Situation A, in which banana has run out but you can still choose between coconut and lime? or Situation B, in which only banana is left? --- Doesn't situation B seem like the more preferable situation of the two even though you're not able to choose between more than one flavor?

This example might sound ridiculous because it's rare that things work out this way, but it's not ridiculous when we consider the idea of a god who can create individuals in any way that he pleases and who wishes them to live fulfilled lives. Imagine if we were to create an artificial intelligence, and instead of installing in it a program that allowed it to do whatever, we programmed it to behave in a very precise and specific manner. But imagine that we also equipped it with the ability to enjoy its existence 100% of the time. Would this really be such a mean thing to do? Provided that the happiness of this artificial intelligence didn't get in the way of its survival or the happiness of others, then I don't see how it could be.

For some of you though, the idea might still seem a little weird., the idea of a god who creates beings to sit around and enjoy things all day without ever having to choose anything. You might feel that a lack of being able to make choices (even if what you wanted always came to you without your ever having to choose it) would somehow prevent one from ever being able to feel truly comfortable. And while there are so many facets of this topic that we could explore, I'd like to focus on just one. If the idea of a god who creates people without the ability to choose makes you uneasy, then ask yourself if this isn't exactly what you believe in. Because if you believe that god made everything and that god knows everything, then is freewill even a possibility?

Every day, everything you do is something that your god knew would happen, whether it's what clothing you decide to where or where you end up when you die. So even if you are the one in control of your choices, there's still no variation. You were ALWAYS going to choose coke over pepsi, or paper over plastic. There was never a "maybe" about what would happen., at least not for your god. There might have been a "maybe" for you, but only because you can't see your own future (which is set - it must be if your god knows that something definitely WILL or WON'T happen), not because there's any sort of actual possibility that things could happen any other way.

And if it doesn't bother you that everything is set and either will happen or won't, then further consider that every faculty you use to make decisions is a part of a brain that was made not by you, but by your god. When you choose what you want on your pizza or what color to paint your bathroom, are you really choosing? Or are you simply obeying your taste buds and the parts of your brain where preferences are stored? And if that's what you're doing, then how can you not be said to be an automaton programed by a god, with no actual freewill? -- Simply put, in a godless universe, it's conceivable that individuals might make their own decisions, whatever exactly that means, but there's really no room for it in a universe where everything was made by a god.

The other way in which freewill can be used to argue for god's allowing evil to exist is one that occupies a much more base level of reasoning. It basically states that if god prevented evil, that he would be taking away man's freedom to sin (and by consequence, hurt others and run the risk of landing himself in hell), and that this would somehow be an immoral thing for a god to do.

There are a number of problems with this argument though. For one thing, it only explains actions done by other people. It doesn't explain things like natural disasters and diseases. Things like earthquakes (and presumably viruses) don't practice freewill and can't be offended by being restricted from carrying out certain actions, and so this argument does nothing to explain why a god would allow millions of people every year to be killed by floods, malaria, car accidents, or falling off of balconies. For another thing, if it's so immoral not to allow people to go around raping and killing, then are police officers being immoral when they try to prevent such acts? Are we going against god by insisting that thieves and murderers not be allowed to do what they want, or to put it another way, execute their freewill? Moreover, can god even be credited with always upholding this idea that it's wrong for him to restrict people's freedom to harm others? Surely he intervenes some of the time, allowing good to triumph over evil. But does that mean then that in these examples god is guilty of restricting the bad guy's freedom?

Yet another problem with this argument is that we're already so restricted anyway. If we DO have freewill, we don't have much of it. We can't, for example, choose to grow wings and fly around, or shapeshift or explore other dimensions. We're very limited. So if freedom is so important and integral to our happiness, then why are there so many things that god simply does not give us the freedom to do? And what harm would it really have done for him just to go the extra step and take away man's ability to kill? Denying man the ability to fly but then granting him the ability to kill people seems like somewhat of a design flaw to me.

My biggest problem though with the whole "god allows person A to harm person B because it would be immoral for god to control what person A does" idea, as if there aren't already enough problems with it, is that it focuses only on what's good for person A and neglects what's good for person B. In order for a god to be moral, he needs to do more than just allow people to do what they want., He also needs to protect people. And in a situation where god sits back and watches as a serial killer cuts a victim into little pieces or a leader of a nation genocides some minority group, then I'd say he's failing to carry out his moral obligation to protect the victims of these crimes. What this would boil down to, if any of it were actually true, is that god is more concerned with being moral to murderers than to the victims that those murderers harm. And how can that be said to be moral, to prioritize one person's freedom to harm over another person's freedom NOT to be harmed? The answer is, it can't be. It's just a poorly thought through excuse that people use to try to reconcile the idea that there's a loving god who can guarantee that everything will work out with the reality that clearly no such god actually exists.

If the christian god is real, then the most moral thing for us to do is hate him, even if it means going to hell.

I of course don't believe that there's such a thing as a god, but I used to think that it wouldn't be so bad if there were a god. In other words, I used to wish that god were real. In retrospect, I think that all I really wanted was an eternal life in heaven, which is a nice idea. But there's no need to confuse the idea of an eternal paradise with the idea of a mentally insane god. When one looks at things honestly, the idea of a god like the one in the bible really isn't such a nice idea at all.

Let's pretend for a moment that the bible is true and that god actually exists. Would you believe in him? Would you become someone who believes in god? I think I would, I mean, provided I were able to be led to that conclusion based on evidence. And at one time I probably would have gladly worshiped a god like that too. After all, who wants to spend eternity in hell?

I've changed though. Nowadays, if a god were to reveal himself to me, I think I would become the single member of a new, bizarre church., the church of people who believe that god exists but refuse to call him good. This opinion of mine has less to do with the way the christian god acts in the old testament, despicable as it is, and more to do with his behavior in the new testament, which, upon closer inspection, is actually much worse. And it is my goal to convince everyone who's reading this, that if god we're real, it would be morally irresponsible to worship him, and that the only moral thing to do would be to hate him, even if it meant spending eternity in hell.

Imagine for a moment, a society in which the government has gone mad with power. They now care not only that you refrain from acts like murder and theft, but from acts such as lying as well, and even completely harmless acts such as looking at others lustfully., along with thousands of other nit-picky and intrusive DOs and DON'Ts. The laws are so strict and unreasonable in this society in fact, that the government just assumes that it's impossible for anyone not to break them. Newborn babies are automatically labeled as criminals, and it is decreed IMPOSSIBLE for anyone ever to be a good citizen. And the methods of punishment used by this country are far worse than the death penalty. Through technology, they have devised a way to keep people alive eternally and have invented torture devices more heinous than anything imaginable. And according to this government's understanding of morals, this is the fate that each of their citizens deserves.

It becomes obvious to the government though that having nothing but criminals for citizens is not a very good way to run a country, so they enact a plan. One of the men who runs the country has himself publicly executed (and then promptly brought back to life via their advanced technology). The government then declares a new law stating that if you opt to love this man, that not only can you avert your impending eternity of torture, but can actually go live in a paradise instead. The only thing is, you can't just love the human sacrifice a little. You must love him as much as is possible for a person to love someone else. You must love him more than yourself, your parents, your spouse, and even your children. Indeed, not killing your children at his mere request is a grave insult. -- And all this is justified by the idea that what this man has done is noble, because he gave his own life to save the citizens from punishment (which is close to meaningless, since he was just brought back to life again later anyway), even though he was the one who came up with the absurd and unreasonable laws in the first place.

To keep disobedience to a minimum, the government requests that their citizens continue to refrain from committing criminal acts as much as possible, but make no secret that if you lie or kill someone, it will not go against your eternal bliss plan, provided you maintain an unconditional love for the human sacrifice. If however you do not offer your love to the human sacrifice, then the government has no choice but to allow you to be tortured for eternity, regardless of which specific laws you have or have not broken.

I can't imagine that a single person reading this would approve of such behavior from a government, and yet this is no worse than what christianity teaches. According to christianity, every man, woman, and child deserves to spend an eternity in hell simply because they are unable not to sin. Then, to add insult to injury, one's "debt" can be forgiven, regardless of which sins they've committed, but only if they accept jesus as their savior. In other words, christians are forgiven, but jews, muslims, hindus, and atheists must burn in hell. A businessman who refused to provide service to someone based on their beliefs would be viewed as a bigot. So why then shouldn't we think the same thing about a god who only provides salvation based on what people's beliefs are?

The truth is, there is no such thing as a god, but if there were, he would be a bigot. And much in the same way that it would be immoral to respect the demands of a government like the one I described earlier, I think it should also be considered immoral for people who believe in a bigoted god to worship and love him. It's delusional for anyone to believe that such a god exists, but for anyone who does, I would at least hope that they hate him for what an awful being he is. But where are these people? A third of the world's population believes in the god of the bible, and presumably most of these people have the idea that their god allows some of his children to suffer eternally while others go off to live in paradise, based on nothing other than what religion they subscribe to. But I know of not a single church that condemns god for judging people based on their beliefs. That saddens me. What that says is that these people, a solid third of the earth's population, are not only dangerous in that they believe in fairy tales, but that they're also dangerous in that they see nothing wrong with religious discrimination ultimately resulting in eternal torture. This cannot stand. There is no excuse for not being disgusted by behavior like this, and there's nothing moral about religious discrimination, regardless of whether it's being practiced by a man or by a god. Anyone who is unable to see that is morally unbalanced.