I’ve often been asked: ‘how do you know god doesn’t exist?’
Well, the truth is, I don’t! After all, god means so many different things to different people. My common reply to the above question is: “which god?”
If you’re asking me about a specific god though, say, the Biblical one, I’d say that I know he doesn’t exist. I know he doesn’t exist, because it is irrational and logically inconsistent to believe he does, just as I know that square circles don’t exist.
Let me anticipate a theistic apologetic in advance: the inscrutability of god. It is said that we cannot know the ways of god, and even seemingly wrong or inhumane actions must have a higher purpose. This sort of defence comes from the same people who are quick to praise their god and all the good he supposedly does. This is a contradiction. And it is a big one! So I’ll address it now and get it over and done with:
If you cannot say what is bad about god, then you cannot say what is good either.
You cannot have it both ways. Either we are able to learn about god from his actions, or we’re not. Either we can make our own moral judgements about god, or we can’t. If we can’t, then no one has the capacity to read their holy book, know their god, and then declare him good. You must use your intellect and morality to make that determination; the same intellect and morality that you could use to declare him evil. And if god is essentially unknowable then we can’t say anything about him!
I want to show beyond reasonable doubt that the biblical god doesn’t exist. I intend to do this using proof by contradiction. Since the biblical god (according to Christians or anyone else who believes in it) is supposed to be loving, just, and compassionate, actions which strongly indicate otherwise show a contradiction, meaning that such a being as defined above cannot exist. If theists want to use a different definition of god, that’s fair enough, but they won’t be talking about a loving, just, compassionate one.
I’d ask everyone from here on out, to pretend they’re a jury in court, and listen to the evidence presented before you. I’d like to enter into evidence as Exhibit A, the King James Version of the Bible. I’d like you to evaluate the character of the witness presented before you, using your intelligence and your innate sense of right and wrong. This is my sworn testimony based on what I’ve learned about the defendant, the god of the bible:
Genesis 7. God is angered by the wickedness of man. As Ebon Musings points out, no race in human history has ever been so monolithic, where every man, woman, and child, thought and believed the same thing. God decides to murder every living creature apart from a small family. Animals are also included in this slaughter, for some reason.
Does god click his fingers and wipe them out of existence? Does he put them to sleep quickly and humanely? No. God decides that not only does every human and animal on the planet deserve to die, but only a slow terrifying tortuous death will suffice: drowning.
Fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, pregnant girls, and babies. Every single one murdered. The reason? Man is wicked. What is god’s reaction after the flood? Regret. In fact he says: “I will not again curse the ground any more for man’s sake; for the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth.” So, mankind is evil so god kills them. Then he promises not to kill mankind again by a flood because…they’re evil.
Does this sound like a fair, just person? Or is this the reasoning of psychopath?
Exodus 4. Egypt. God’s people are captive, and god wants them released. He sends his spokesman Moses to the Pharaoh demanding their liberation. Every time Pharaoh says no, god sends plague after plague to hurt and curse the Egyptians. Why didn’t Pharaoh change his mind? God tells us why: “And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and multiply my signs and my wonders in the land of Egypt. But Pharaoh shall not hearken unto you…” So, god hardened Pharaoh’s heart so that whatever happened he wouldn’t change his mind! Note also that god knows in advance that Pharaoh will not listen to Moses, so what was the point of this charade?! Why not save time and precious human life by delivering his people out by some other means?
Taking away Pharaoh’s free will and then punishing him for it is unfair to say the least. But to punish millions of people for the actions of one person is cruel and sadistic: the final plague god sends is to murder every firstborn of the Egyptians. Imagine that. The firstborn son, of every house, at any age, is murdered, all in the same night. Who was being punished here, and why? Was every Egyptian responsible for the Israelites captivity? “…and there was a great cry in Egypt; for there was not a house where there was not one dead.”
Are these the actions of a being that loves humans? Who respects human life? Who uses torture and murder as a very last resort?
Numbers 15. What are you doing this Sunday? I’m going out with friends. We might take a walk up a hill or through the forest. If I was living in ancient Israel, I better be careful not to pick up sticks though!
Don’t you think justice demands that the penalty for a crime should be proportionate to that crime?
Let’s see what god thinks: “And while the children of Israel were in the wilderness, they found a man that gathered sticks upon the sabbath day… And the Lord said unto Moses, The man shall be surely put to death: all the congregation shall stone him with stones without the camp. And all the congregation brought him without the camp, and stoned him with stones, and he died; as the Lord commanded Moses.”
Imagine having masses of people around you, throwing stones at your body and head until you die from your injuries. This form of execution would be inhumane no matter what crime you committed, but picking up sticks??
This is the same god that many Christians worship. Whether Christians claim to be under Mosaic Law or not is irrelevant. The god of the bible deems this just and necessary. Do you? If you were ruler would you make a rule like this? Would you execute anyone in this fashion?
What is your opinion of genocide? Is it acceptable, ever? We know that people can be evil. We know that many people can be evil, but isn’t genocide the ultimate act of racism: the deliberate extermination of a particular people or nation, just for belonging to that nation! It is stupidity of the highest order to suppose that every single person of a particular race is worthy of death. Yet, this is exactly what the god of the bible demands on many occasions.
“But of the cities of these people, which the Lord thy God doth give thee for an inheritance, thou shalt save alive nothing that breatheth: But thou shalt utterly destroy them; namely, the Hittites, and the Amorites, the Canaanites, and the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites; as the Lord thy God hath commanded thee” – Numbers 7.
(Defending yourself from invasion is one thing. Killing soldiers in a war or occupation is one thing. Systematically invading other nations and wiping out all life in those cities is genocide. It has been attempted before, most notably by Hitler, and we all have our opinions of his character.)
Even in the New Testament, god’s attention switches from people of different nations to people who simply don’t believe. The penalty is always the same: death.
In today’s culture, the death penalty is considered the ultimate price to pay for a crime, but in most civilised countries it has been virtually abolished!
Was the god of the bible unique amongst gods of the time? Did the Israelites and their god have an evolved morality that made them stand out for their tolerance and ethics? Or were they just like every other nation of the time; primitive and barbaric?
Numbers 31. The Israelites defeat the Midianites in battle, and all the male Midianites are killed. Did Moses declare victory? No. There was still work to be done. The soldiers of Israel had left alive the young males, all the women, all the girls, and all the babies.
What did god’s spokesman have to say? “Have ye saved all the women alive? …. Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him. But all the women children, that have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves.”
Would a loving, just, and caring god demand the execution of young boys? Why were non-virgin women killed but not virgin girls? You know why! They were used as sex slaves. Unfortunately for the virgin boys, since homosexuality was a sin (also punishable by death), the Israelites had no use for them, so they were murdered too.
Are these the actions you would expect from a God of Love? Or are these actions crimes of war? Genocide, mass murder, infanticide, and rape. Note that all the virgin girls are given over to the men of Israel; their ages aren’t specified.
God punishes his people for the slightest transgression in the bible, yet he has nothing at all to say about Moses’ barbaric orders. Why?
Joshua 6. Same old story. Moses has been succeeded by Joshua, and he leads god’s armies to the city of Jericho. The result: “And they utterly destroyed all that was in the city, both man and woman, young and old, and ox, and sheep, and ass, with the edge of the sword.”
Imagine if a foreign power decided to invade your community. Imagine even that some people in your community were horrid criminals. But if this power exterminated every human and animal where you had grown up, you’d think them a despicable inhuman band of evil murderers. And you’d be right to.
Joshua 7. A man called Achan steals treasure that god’s army looted in battle. The punishment? Achan is burned to death. So are all his animals, his wife, and his children. What does this tell us about the punisher? Even if Achan and his entire family were guilty, is being burned alive a reasonable consequence for stealing or conspiracy to steal?
In the first book of Samuel, the Ark of the Covenant is stolen and then returned to the Israelites. When it returns, the Jews make the mistake of opening it and beholding the interior. What did our loving caring compassionate understanding all-knowing god do? He executed over 50,000 people. The next time you’re at a public gathering like a sports stadium, imagine everyone in there suddenly murdered. Reasonable?
2 Kings 2. The prophet Elisha is walking along a road when 40 children appear and start name-calling Elisha for being bald. Elisha curses them. No sooner did he do this, than two she-bears come out of the woods and tear the children to pieces.
Are you a parent? Is your child a saint? Have they ever teased or tormented someone? Have they ever taken the mickey or acted foolishly? Imagine if you got home from work one day and the news was given to you that your young child had been ripped to pieces by a wild animal, for the “crime” of insulting a stranger about being bald.
Would you worship a god that had such a short violent temper? Are these the actions of a loving heavenly father, or an evil vindictive tyrant?
2 Chronicles 25. Amaziah, god’s reigning king of Israel takes 10,000 prisoners alive in war. It should be noted that although god punishes Amaziah for worshipping other gods, he does nothing about what we’re about to hear:
“And other ten thousand left alive did the children of Judah carry away captive, and brought them unto the top of the rock, and cast them down from the top of the rock, that they all were broken in pieces.”
10,000 prisoners of war were taken to a cliff edge, and thrown off one by one by one. Like lemmings falling to their deaths by the thousands. This is sickening mass murder, but because these 10,000 people weren’t god’s followers does that make it ok? Would you throw another human being off a cliff?
Although god was quick to punish the crime of false worship, he does nothing about murdering thousands of defenceless people. We might well ask: what is more important to this person; his own glorification, or the lives of thousands of helpless people? Choosing your own egotistical interests above the lives of others is not love.
Hosea 13. God threatens to punish the city of Samaria. Let’s see how he intends to do this:
“Samaria shall become desolate; for she hath rebelled against her God: they shall fall by the sword: their infants shall be dashed in pieces, and their women with child shall be ripped up.”
This is how god intends to punish an entire city: murder of children; murder of pregnant women.
If you heard a story on the news of somebody killing children and pregnant women en masse, what would you think of that person?
Consider the following description of god’s personality:
“The LORD is longsuffering, and of great mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression, and by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation.” – Numbers 14:8
We are told that god is longsuffering, merciful, forgiving, and just…and in the same verse told that he will punish children for the crimes of their great grandfathers! How is punishing a person for the crimes of another person just? That is the very definition of anti-justice!
When King David desires Bathsheba and has her husband killed in battle (all this whilst god watches on and does nothing), god decides to punish David. Well, that’s not entirely true. He has David’s wives raped whilst other people watch, and kills the child that is the product of David and Bathsheba’s relationship. Sure enough, the child is born, gets sick, and dies. Would you want someone you love to pay the price for your mistakes? Do you think that’s fair? What would you feel for the person who took the life of your child?
The atrocities we’ve covered above show a person who is anything but merciful and patient. Also remember that this from a person who is supposed to be infinitely wise and all-knowing, yet he loses his temper and lashes out like a spoilt brat for the slightest transgression!
In the NT, the emphasis changes to the afterlife, and burning people alive with fire for all eternity, for choosing not to follow god (or not knowing any better).
I put it to you that the biblical god is cruel, evil, unjust, and unloving. The god of the bible is simply not compatible with the idea that many Christians have of their god. Therefore, there are only a few possibilities left:
1. The interpretation of god I have presented here is wrong. (Which I believe is virtually impossible to maintain after reviewing the evidence.)
2. God exists but is the not the god of the bible, therefore Christianity and anything based on the bible is false.
3. The god of the bible does exist, but those who believe in him have an extremely distorted and erroneous image of him. This also means that Christianity and anything based on the bible is wrong, or the bible is not totally consistent about god’s personality.
4. Our sense of right and wrong is inadequate to judge god. This apologetic fails, for the reasons given above: if we cannot say “god is good” then we cannot say “god is bad”. In other words, this attempted explanation is self-refuting.
5. The events in the bible are mythical. (If this were true, the stories described above are still evil, whether they’re the acts of a mythical being or not. But if the bible stories are a myth then what is the point of believing in the biblical god?)
6. God doesn’t exist.
In my opinion, the best way to explain the entire bible, the contradictions, the atrocities in it, with the least superfluous theories, and in the most efficient and reasonable manner, is to go with option 6. (Especially when one considers that there is no evidence to support these atrocities! We can safely say that they are just stories. Horrific, barbaric, evil – but fortunately, just stories.)
For those who accept the god of the bible, the only way to escape this conclusion is to deny that the disgraceful acts and despicable atrocities committed by god or those acting on his orders, were evil.
But I do not believe that any moral, intelligent, rational person can possibly call what we have considered not evil.
I rest my case.