11/29/2014 | Share this article: View CommentsBy Ben Love ~
Where exactly is God? This is my question for those of you who believe in God.Where is he? If he is a personal God, then he must therefore be a person (on some level). A person, by definition, has to occupy space and time somewhere, right? So, where is God?
"He exists everywhere," you might say.
I might inquire what this is supposed to mean, exactly. God is everywhere? Does this mean that there is no place in existence where God does not dwell? This implies, then, that if you believe in Hell, God must be there, too. But Hell is defined by Christians as, among other things, separation from God. How can there ever exist a place in all of reality where God is not present if God really is everywhere? God must be just as present in the Biblical idea of Hell as he is in the Biblical idea of Heaven, otherwise, you cannot say God is "everywhere." The statement is incoherent.
We might then inquire what exactly the word exist means. To exist means to be present, to occupy space and time as some form of matter. This, then, would have to mean that God resides within the Universe, not outside of it. But if God resides within the Universe, how could he possibly have created it? This would be the same as trying to argue that the fish created the ocean. Now, granted, one could theoretically say that God exists in some form other than matter in space and in time, but this "other form," whatever it may be, is therefore not observable. As such, one cannot have any kind of meaningful conversation about what this God might be like. We would be fully within the land of pure speculation at that point. Furthermore, if God, whatever he/she/it may be, does indeed exist outside of the Universe, then, again, there is no use trying to talk about God, because no living being has the slightest idea what this entity would be like. After all, no human being has ever traveled beyond the edge of the Universe, if indeed such a boundary even exists at all.
I bring these issues up because they are just a few of the many, many incoherent beliefs that abound regarding the Biblical God, the God of Christianity. (For a full and thorough examination of all these incoherences that are unique to the Christian God, see Dan Barker's book Godless.) Another such example would be to say that God is both fully just and fully merciful. This is totally incoherent. How could any being, deity or otherwise, be both? We all know the definitions of just and merciful. God cannot fully be both. If God is fully just, he cannot have any mercy (because even just one tiny little sin, according to Christian doctrine, is enough to earn you an eternal slot in Hell). To be "just" means to dispense fair and equitable consequences. According to Christianity, a fair and equitable consequence for even just one sin is eternal punishment. Where, then, is the room for mercy? Likewise, if God is fully merciful, he is therefore, by definition, unjust. If the crime deserves a just punishment, but God then commutes the sentence out of his mercy, he has not actually served justice. He therefore cannot be both. (I have actually heard Christians say the following, "Incoherent or not, it makes no difference to me. My God is [contradictory adjective 1], [contradictory adjective 2], and [contradictory adjective 3] all at the same time because I have faith that this is true." Okay, well, that's great that you have faith in the truth of your incoherent statement, but what does this have to do with proof and reality? Couldn't I just as easily say that blue plus seven equals pasta? No matter how deep my faith is in this statement, it is still totally incoherent.)
The point is this, the God described in the Bible cannot be God. Why not? The entity known as "God" in the pages of the Bible disqualifies himself from being a true "God" simply by his actions as reported in the pages of that very book. In Exodus, God tells his people not to kill other human beings (it's one of his Ten Commandments, in fact). Then, just a few books later, in Joshua, he explicitly instructs them to slaughter the men, women, and children of Canaan. So what we have here, ostensibly, is an entity that on the one hand has apparently instructed humans not to commit murder, but then only the other hand makes exceptions to this rule when it suits his "divine plan." I have actually heard Christians excuse this by saying, "He's God. He can take life whenever he wants and it's not murder, because he's God." Well, even just assuming that this is an adequate answer (which it is not), this is not an example of God "taking life;" this is an example of God telling a group of his creations to commit genocide against another group of his creations. How can "God" literally ask you to commit a sin? "Oh, but it's not sin when God tells you to do it." Okay, but if this God is not the example of morality, how can he also be your standard? Thus, the Biblical God contradicts himself and violates the morality he is supposedly responsible for erecting when it suits his fancy to do so. This contradiction is only one example.
In addition, hasn't it ever struck you as particularly interesting that the God described in the pages of the Bible sounds remarkably human? This God is, at times, almost too human. The Christians will say, "Well, it's not that he is like us, it's that we are like him because he created us in his image." Well, being as objective as we can possibly be, let us ask which is more likely: that God in all his perfection still somehow displays remarkably human traits such as jealousy, irritation, racism, homophobia, forgetfulness, waffling decisions (his conversation with Lot, for example), political agendas, pettiness, impatience, and impulsive actions (I can produce the scripture to back all of these adjectives up, if you so challenge me to do so)...OR that this entity isn't really "God" at all but is rather a human manifestation of a God, no different than Zeus or Thor or any of the rest of them? Furthermore, if this image of God as portrayed in the Bible is accurate, is this really the image you want to be created in? Do you really want to be created in the image of a bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser? (Perhaps you do. If so, cheerio, my good man.)
Consider also that if the Biblical God is an accurate portrayal, then the believing Christian is stuck with what I call the "Flood Conundrum." What is the Flood Conundrum? This:
The Flood Conundrum:
- God creates humanity.
- God knows ahead of time that they will sin.
- God also knows ahead of time that he will pay for this sin through the life, death, blood, and resurrection of his son (Jesus Christ).
- Even while knowing ahead of time that their sins will ultimately be taken care of, God can no longer stand the sins of humans, even though he also knew ahead of time that their sinfulness would be just as it is.
- God wipes out humanity with a flood (saving only 8 humans and the animals) because he cannot stand their sins.
- CONCLUSION? At the exact moment God was creating humans he also knew that he would wipe them out with a flood (after all, God is supposed to be omniscient). Thus, knowing this, God created humans with the express intention of killing them in a flood. There is no other conclusion that can be reached.
The God described in the pages of the Bible sounds remarkably human? This God is, at times, almost too human.So, here we clearly have a God behaving in an un-God-like way. Here we have a God who has foreknowledge of certain events (he must have foreknowledge if he is all-knowing) but who continues with his actions regardless of that knowledge. This would be the exact same as me luring a girl into my basement with kindness all while knowing ahead of time that once she is down there I'm going to chain her up and kill her. Christians will say this a gross over-simplification of the matter. Is it really? If God clearly knew ahead of time that the sacrifice of Jesus would ultimately answer sin, then why does he lose his cool on the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah? How were they any more sinful than any other place where humans congregated? What made them such particularly bad cities as to earn the fate they earned? Why did he kill the man who accidentally touched the Ark of the Covenant? Did that particular sin (how petty can God be, anyway?) somehow not qualify under Jesus' sacrifice (which had not happened yet chronologically but which God knew, even at this time, would happen)? Did the people of Sodom and Gomorrah somehow not fall under the divine plan of Jesus' redemption? Did the people who perished in the genocidal flood somehow not fall into this plan? Was the sacrifice of Jesus for ALL humanity, as the Bible says it was, or not? And if it was, doesn't this make the flood superfluous, capricious, and malevolently barbaric? Can a capricious and malevolent entity qualify as "God?" No.
I say all of this because the Biblical God cannot be God. It is infinitely impossible. This is why I am an atheist. And since I know the Biblical God cannot be God, I also have a pretty good idea that the entire pantheon of gods humans have worshiped over the centuries is likely just as farcical. Thus, regarding any human manifestation of "God," my default position is and will remain atheist.
However, a crucial distinction needs to be made. There is a sense in which all human beings, be they believers or atheists or something else, are agnostic. What is agnosticism? It merely means "having no knowledge of." Okay, so we must observe, then, that even Christians are agnostic in a sense. How so? If they actually knew for a fact that the doctrines they believe were true, faith wouldn't be required at all. Take away faith and the entire structure of Christianity comes crashing down. The presence of faith must therefore imply that you don't actually have a final knowledge of that in which you believe. The same is true of the atheist. The atheist has concluded that the human pantheon of gods is absurd (this is what makes him an atheist), but he does not have nor can he have a final knowledge of what "might" be out there. All humans, therefore, are agnostic. They don't know what is actually out there, because they themselves have never been "out there."
A beloved friend of mine recently said this to me: "The evidence screams a Creator." Maybe she is right. Maybe she is wrong. Science is still unraveling these matters and the jury is very much still "out" (and let's be honest, the jury is going to stay out on this one, because a finite answer, one way or the other, isn't possible under the current laws of physics). At any rate, does the evidence scream a Creator? As a fair minded individual, I can see the arguments for both sides. Both camps have convincing material at their disposal which can be wielded at will. Who is right? Usually, it is "us" that is right, and "them" that are wrong.
The heart of this issue, though, is this: even if the evidence does scream a Creator, how justified is any one human in inserting his or her [God] into that blank slot? In a sense, that's like saying this: "The evidence screams a Creator, and I know who it is." Oh really? You know, do you? At least the atheist can be humble enough to admit that he doesn't know. The atheist does know this, though: if there is a Creator-Being out there (and there very well could be; it may even be somewhat likely), this entity must not resemble anything we could conjure or imagine. It, whatever it is, must certainly not embody the all too human and contradictory traits of the Biblical God. To go on thinking so is to flat out refuse to see the writing on the wall. Digging in your heals for the sake of faith may make you feel real nice on the inside, but it does not help the progression of the population at large. It is time to begin seeing the Christian God for what the pages of the Bible openly portray him to be: absurd.