Recently, I was browsing atheist websites and I was blown away by the depth and reason of the arguments. Though a believer, I found myself doubting many of the things I had been taught to believe. Even the very nature of God as all-loving was called into question. I was almost ready to throw away all of my religious paraphernalia. But, then I began to think about it. I realized that some of the arguments on these sites sounded just as ridiculous as some of the arguments I have heard from Christians against various aspects of science. I’ll address a few of them now.
Perhaps the most obviously unreasonable is the idea that God frequently breaks His own commandments, most notably through murder. On the surface, this seems like a good argument. Look through the Bible and you can plainly see the numbers of deaths that were either commanded by God or done through His power directly (e.g. angels razing cities). Nevertheless, let’s analyze the idea of God as a rule breaker. The first commandment reads roughly as “I, the Lord, am your God. You shall have no other gods before me.” Is it really reasonable to believe that God is including Himself in this ruling? He shall have no other gods before Himself? Not really. Let’s take another. Can God honor His father and mother? Clearly, He cannot. Neither can He covet His neighbor’s wife (I would love to see the neighborhood God lives in. I bet it’s a cul-de-sac). Obviously, the commandments aren’t meant for God to follow. In some cases, He doesn’t even meet the basic requirements to fulfill/reject them. This includes the provision of murder, which is the unlawful killing of another human being. God isn’t a human being, so how can He kill “another human being?” He can’t.
Another argument I’ve heard is that, should we judge all beings by their deeds, God must be evil as He, by His own admission, created evil. Again, this seems very reasonable. But, let’s think for a moment. The human being is perhaps the ultimate animal, not because of any noticeable physical advantage, but because it alone has the ability to reason. Human beings have the ability to think, to weigh their options and choose the best one, based on empirical evidence as well as true reason. Now ask yourself how reason and logic can exist if there are no choices. How can you successfully argue for choosing option B if option B does not exist? In order for good to have meaning, there must be an alternative to it. Otherwise, humans do not need reason. We may as well exist as automatons. Evil must exist in order for human beings to be able to choose good. Going back to the nature of God, His true self can only be understood as amorphous at best. Both good and evil can come from Him but, again by His own admission, He would prefer to bestow all manner of good on His people. He is not good; He is not evil. He Himself tells us what He is: “I am.”
The next point is twofold: God as a self-confessed perpetrator of evil and God hardening people’s hearts. Ok. I concede that some truly overwhelming destruction has been visited upon God’s enemies. The phrase “I will show no mercy” appears more than once. Nevertheless, the “evil” spoken of is always a response, as is the hardening of a heart. In both cases, a human being, or group of humans, has chosen to go against God’s rules. They may have begun to worship false gods, or given themselves over to whoredom or not shown the proper amount of obedience or any number of things. At a certain point, God loses patience. After that, there is no repentance. We move into the penalty stage. Think of it this way: imagine a college professor gives his students an assignment with a due date of Friday, 5:00 p.m., three weeks from the day it was assigned. He makes it clear when he gives the assignment that late projects will not be accepted. If a student hands in the assignment at 5:10 p.m., does he or she have the right to be upset when it is rejected?
The terms of the assignment were given at the beginning. They were edicts, not suggestions. If the student had come to the professor before the due date and asked for an extension, it may have been granted. Since that did not happen, the penalty has been incurred. Should the student be mad at the professor or mad at himself for not completing the assignment in the given timeframe? Going back to God, most rules have a time limit. To delay is to disobey. After that point, the option to comply is gone. Long before He hardened anyone’s heart, He gave them the option to come to Him and repent. By the time He has decided to “end things” the time limit has passed. Oops. Once you’ve missed the deadline, He won’t listen. He hardens your heart because it will not do you any good to suddenly hear the Word and understand. Instead, you’re going to be the example that He uses to show what happens to people who refuse repentance when it is offered. Had you been on time, it wouldn’t have happened. Your actions have brought something down on you.
Do we call the state evil for locking someone away for life after they commit a murder? No, we don’t. We understand that the person had a choice. It’s all well and good to be sorry after the fact, but the rules are what they are.
So, why does God say that He does evil against people? Why does He not simply call it punishment? Whether we realize it or not, God is fairly simple to understand. He wants to do good for people. If there is something that must be done and it is the opposite of what God wants for us, it is bad. Good is what He WANTS to do; evil is what He is FORCED to do because we refused to obey. As with any thinking being, you can determine, to an extent, how you will be treated by Him. He tells us, in advance, how He will respond. He never said we will never face hardships. If that were true, why would we need heaven? He never said that He will be gracious to His defeated foes. He clearly said He would have no mercy.
The next point is the end, or rather what happens at the end. According to many, the tortures and torments in Hell are so inhumane and uncalled for that they show just how cruel and evil God really is. This would be valid, except for the simple fact that God does not have dealings with Hell. He does not determine what happens there. He rules heaven. Hell is the place for all the beings that refused Him. What they do, much like the actions that led to them being in Hell in the first place, is their choice. Think of it this way: if someone is murdered by the government of California, would we blame the government of New York for it? No. California, though vaguely related to New York, is not New York. The governments are separate and so are their responsibilities. So why do we blame heaven for the problems in Hell?
Will any of these points prove the existence of God or convince people to convert to Christianity? No. Absolutely not. That is not my intent. My goal is merely to show that some of the arguments that supposedly disprove aspects of God are just as flawed as the arguments that supposedly prove these same aspects. Belief and disbelief are not excuses to suspend reason or rely on half-true arguments. Whether given by God or just an inalienable part of the human evolution, we have reason. We should use it completely. At least, that’s the decision I’ve come to.