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The Problem of Fairness

By WizenedSage (Galen Rose) ~

In the literature concerning whether one ought to believe in Bible-god, we find what is termed the “Problem of Evil.” This “problem” raises the question, if god is compassionate and all-powerful, then why is there evil in the world? In the literature, we also find what might be called the “Problem of Evidence.” The question in this case is, if there is a god who created the world and constantly interferes in it, answering prayers and such, then where is the convincing evidence of this?

I propose another problem concerning the question of whether to believe in Bible-god, which I think may be equally important. I call it the “Problem of Fairness.”

In recent decades psychologists have discovered that we humans, and some other animals, have a deep, genetically endowed sense of fairness, and an abhorrence of unfairness.

For example, Professor Marc Bekoff, in his book “Wild Justice,” claims that morals are "hard-wired" into the brains of all mammals and provide the social glue that allows often aggressive and competitive animals to live together in groups. Numerous other studies have suggested that some animals may even be capable of showing empathy with the suffering of other species.

Professor Frans de Waal, a primate behaviorist at Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia, has said that he doesn’t think other animals have the same developed moral sense as humans, but, rather, that our tendencies and capacities for empathy, reciprocity and that sense of fairness are older than our species, being the fruits of evolution.

It certainly seems that fairness is something we don’t need to learn, we just know it. If you listen to little children on a playground sometime, it won’t be long before you hear one of them exclaim, “That’s not fair!”

In contrast, the very foundational act of Christianity shows Bible-god to be unfair. Arranging for the torture and crucifixion of one innocent child so the others could go scot-free of their wrongs was unfair, both to the sacrificed one and to the others who were made to feel guilty for his death.

Now here’s the problem. If man was made in god’s image, then why doesn’t god have this built-in need for fairness like us? Doesn’t this need suggest that we are very different from Bible-god, and surely not created in his image? If fairness is one of our greatest needs, then shouldn’t our god epitomize Fairness, with a capital F? Shouldn’t we expect to see fairness raised to a higher power in a perfect god who allegedly created us? Why do so many of Bible-god’s actions and commands strike us as so grotesque, so brutal, and so very unfair? Who among us would think it fair to kill children for teasing a bald man (2 Kings 2:23-24)? I have to think that if I was made in that god’s image, then, in terms of morality, I am a much improved model. In modern societies, we don’t hold children to the same standards or punishments as adults because we realize that their minds are not fully developed. But Bible-god doesn’t cut them any slack. So, is the god of this story a real god?

In our societies, when a man seriously wrongs others, we imprison him in an attempt to rehabilitate him (except in the very worst cases). But notice that Bible-god never rehabilitates, except his own chosen people. Others he drowns, or plagues, or commands his chosen people to destroy. Numerous nations were either destroyed directly by god, or by the Israelites on god’s command. Imagine the individual Canaanite when her nation was destroyed. She didn’t ask to be born a Canaanite and taught to worship Canaanite gods. She had no control over that, any more than the child in Mississippi can avoid being brought up Christian, or the Pakistan child being brought up Muslim. Nevertheless, God orders the destruction of all the Canaanites. Could they really all have been evil?

Bible-god selects the Israelites as his chosen people, and all other nations are treated with utter disdain. This is a lot like a human father having a favorite child. We real fathers (and mothers), with a strong sense of fairness, understand that having a favorite child is grossly unfair and we go to great lengths to avoid even the appearance of playing favorites. I have three grown sons, so I have balanced this dynamic for much of my life.

The Bible contains thousands of examples of Bible-god’s lack of concern for fairness, but I think I can make my point by just mentioning a few of them. One very obvious example is the Great Flood, when Bible-god drowns all but one family. To think that every other human on the earth was “evil” makes no sense, especially when the toddlers and babies are included. Bible-god simply chose his favorites, Noah and his family, and wiped the others off the face of the earth.

Uzzah touched the Ark of the Covenant reflexively, to keep it from falling, but god struck him dead on the spot for touching it (1 Chronicles 13:9-12). Who could think this is fair?

The Amalekites were destroyed because of something their ancestors did to the Israelites several hundred years before (1 Samuel 15:2-3). Would it be fair of us to destroy the United Kingdom today because they burned down much of Washington, D.C. 200 years ago?

The Israelites saving of the Midianite virgins for themselves was very unfair (done on the command of Moses, god’s mouthpiece, and not overruled by god) (Numbers 31:17-18); it utterly disregards the wishes and normal rights of those little girls. Also on Moses command, after the war with the Midianites, the Midianite non-virgin women and little boys, who had been taken prisoner, were all killed. They took no prisoners from this war . . . except the young virgins. It sucked to be a Midianite, whatever your station or sex, whatever your merit as a humanitarian, good or bad. Fairness, it seems, was simply not a consideration.

Sentencing someone to eternity in hell because he doesn’t believe in Jesus Christ is clearly unfair, whether he disbelieves because of his parents’ “brainwashing ,” or lack of positive evidence, or lack of information (being brought up in India, say), or is just too stupid to see and understand what he has been told is good evidence. Would we blame someone with a 65 IQ for not graduating from high school? Wouldn’t that be unfair?

In fact, it should be obvious that punishing someone FOREVER for ANY wrongdoing is unfair. That is equivalent to our court systems executing check bouncers, petty thieves, speeders, or jaywalkers.

Bible-god is unfair over and over. I ask again, if we humans were made in his image, then why does god not have the same built-in sense of fairness? Could it be that those Bible authors of antiquity wanted to stress primarily that god was to be feared and obeyed, and so they downplayed fairness? Could it be that the Bible is not the “Word of God” after all, because it doesn’t describe any believably real god?

Fairness is so very often lacking in this world that god supposedly oversees and controls. Over and over, historically and today, good things happen to bad people and bad things happen to good people. Six million Jews were killed in Europe in the 1930s and 1940s. Their crime? An accident of birth. One or more of their parents or grandparents were Jewish. And of those Nazis who carried out the slaughter, or performed grotesque medical experiments on the Jews? Most of the common soldiers were never punished after the war, and a number of the Nazi leaders made it to South America and lived long, bountiful lives before being caught, and some were never caught. Seeing this, how are we to think about god’s appreciation of fairness?

Inevitably, some Christian reading this is going to claim that I just don’t understand the “mystery of god.” It will never occur to him that perhaps Bible-god is a lousy teacher because the Bible is simply not his Word. Bible-god insists that he wants us to believe, and that we have no other gods before him, yet he does ridiculously unfair things, making us suspect his sanity and, indeed, his existence.

We humans are deeply infused with a sense of - and need for – fairness. Why? And where does it come from? That Bible-god, who supposedly created us in his image, is so sorely lacking in this respect, convinces me that this creation story is false. We are not the creations, the “images” of such a self-absorbed, unsympathetic brute. We are far too concerned with fairness to be directly related.

Bible-god is horrendously unfair in the Bible, over and over, chapter after chapter, from Genesis through Revelation. Even if this god were real, it would not be deserving of worship. I am forced to conclude that those who believe in a loving god, based on the Bible, are deluded, or just not paying attention. A truly loving and perfect god would simply not make a habit of being unfair. That is contradictory and makes no sense at all.