A perfect God?

November 21, 2008

The three mainstream monotheistic religions make a common claim. They claim their god is perfect. Apart from the obvious issue that the concept of perfection is subjective I have been thinking about this idea, the idea of a perfect god.

Since Christianity is the main religion that I come into contact with I would like to consider the concept of “the Christian god is perfect”. The actual existence of such a perfect being is not within the scope of this discussion because it is a discussion all on its own.

What is perfection? Perfection means it cannot be better, for if something could be better, then it would not be perfect. We can look at biological organisms and their functions. Human eyes for instance are not perfect. Why? Well, a squid’s eyes are closer to optimum. We only see three colours, namely red, green and blue. A mantis shrimp has the ability to see eight. Seeing eight colours is better then seeing only three colours. There is therefore no way we can claim that human eyes are perfect since we have examples of better eyes in other animals.

But comparing gods is a bit more difficult. The reason is that gods cannot be differentiated from mere ideas that humans have. We have not caught any god(s) so we cannot study them/it. Searching for a god’s interaction in our universe has also proven to be fruitless so far. But perhaps we can compare ideas to see if an idea is better than another one and therefore closer to perfection. The better something is, the closer it is to perfection. To a certain extend one can evaluate a god in the same way we evaluate ideas. There is no other way to evaluate a god and his/her/it’s worth, as far as I know. We can only compare ideas and opinions.

So the Christians make a claim about their god. They claim he is perfect. But, if I can think of a god with better properties, then my idea of a god is closer to perfection than their idea or concept of god. Since a perfect god has perfection as a property it should therefore be impossible to think of better properties or attributes for such a god. If it could be better, then it is not perfect. If a person can think of better properties or attributes then the first concept of god no longer has any claim to perfection.

We see this concept of perfection active in the Christian concept of god. All-mighty. Yes, that sounds perfect. Omni-present. Yes, that also sounds also very perfect to me. All-knowing would also be a requirement for a perfect god. All-good would be a requirement for a good god if it is also claimed that he is perfect. Since I cannot improve on concepts such as all-mighty, all-knowing and all-present it means that I cannot imagine a more perfect god. On the surface, the Christian god appears to be a perfect god.

The Christians also have another claim, apart of the claim for a perfect god. The claim is that the Bible tells us something about this perfect god and his actions. There are also references in the Bible describing God as all-mighty, all-knowing etc. But the Bible goes into more detail. At certain places it describes god’s motives behind some of his actions. In other places only actions are discussed without the motives behind them. The Bible is full of concepts about god, his actions and his motives. Jesus was send because the all-good god had a plan to sacrifice his son to save mankind. This is the basis of the Christian faith.

There is a problem though. By reading the Bible and its alleged revelation about god we can continue to think about the concept of the perfect Christian God and compare it to the concept of perfection. So, let’s start at the beginning.

According to the Christian holy book, the Bible, God made everything (universe) in six days. Why six days? Would a perfect god not have made everything in the blink of an eye? If we compare two gods: One makes the universe in six days and the other god makes the universe in a split second, who is the better god? Well, the one who created in the least time of course.

The Bible says that god rested on the seventh day. Now, people claim it was done that way so that humans could understand that the seventh day is a holy day and a day of resting. But does that really mean god rested? If god did not rest, then the Bible is lying because it clearly says that god rested on the seventh day. A better god would simply not require rest.

It is claimed that Adam and Eve lived in a perfect garden. No death, no maintenance required and not even clothes required. It sounds pretty perfect to me. But there was a tree planted by god. That tree had the potential to cause major disaster. This does not sound like a perfect idea to me. Adam and Eve were commanded not to eat the fruit from that tree. We all know the rest. Satan came, chatted to Eve and convinced her to eat from the forbidden tree. Adam followed suit and God promptly kicked them out of the perfect garden. This story is the so called “fall of man” or original sin. Yet, looking at the story as a whole we find some problems ascribing this god’s action in the light of perfection. A perfect garden with a temptation (evil) is not perfect. Since a perfect god is all-knowing, he would have known Adam and Eve would have eaten from the forbidden fruit, so why plant the damn tree there in the first place? Did he expect a better outcome? Would a perfect god not have been smart enough not to plant the tree causing the majority of humanity to be condemned to eternal torture? A perfect god would have avoided this pitfall that allegedly caused humanity all its suffering. In short, humanity’s suffering is the direct result of the actions of this god who planted the tree that made this big mess possible in the first place. A better god would have done better since the situation is clearly a bad one. Any situation ending up in the majority of people having to suffer is a bad one.

The Christians claim there must have been a choice for evil else there could be no free will. Free will is a requirement for perfection and it is claimed that Adam and Eve was made perfect. One has to wonder if their eyes were perfect too, way back then, able to see at least as many colours as the mantis shrimp. And yet, if they were perfect then why did they have the tendency to fall for temptation? The very first temptation that came along they fell for. Would a perfect god not have left out this obvious error in his design? It is like building an aeroplane and deliberately building in the possibility that the engines could overheat, causing the plane to crash. Such a plane would not be perfect, since a better property could be imagined, i.e, the property that it would have a fail safe not to overheat. A better design, in short and therefore the first design cannot be described as perfect.

One also has to wonder about the Noah’s flood story. God drowned all the people on Earth except for eight of them. It is claimed that all people on earth (except the Noah eight) was just too evil and the only resort was to murder them all. Are these the actions of a perfect god? Would it not have been better to do something else? Surely an all-powerful god could not have had as a last solution the murder of all humanity, except for a chosen eight people. Could he not have thundered a voice from heaven? The Christian god, it is claimed, interfered with a Pharaoh’s attitude. It is said that he hardened the heart of Pharaoh, leading to the deaths of all first-born Egyptian children (innocent). Could he not have used a reversed tactic and softened the hearts of the people in Noah’s time? And if he was really committed to killing them all, then why not just make them disappear into total non-existence, instead of having them (children too) suffer the horrible death of drowning? Could he not have given them a more merciful death, like teleported an overdose of sleeping tablets to the intestines of the ones he disliked? Why the whole drama of a flood? Could he not just have disintegrated the people and things he had an issue with, sterilising the earth from evil? Since I can conceive how a better god could have handled the whole flood drama in a better way, can the Christian god still be claimed to be perfect?

Now, people might say: “Whoa, wait a minute. Our idea of perfect is not God’s idea of perfect so we cannot judge what is perfect or not”. If so, then *you* cannot claim your god is perfect, since you invalidate your concept of perfect in one blow and therefore cannot lay claim to a concept of perfection at all. If only your god knows what is perfect, then you cannot claim to know he is perfect. You cannot claim we don’t know what perfect is and then claim you know god is perfect.

Looking at the whole story of Jesus having to suffer as a sacrifice for our sin I also have some questions. If god is all-mighty then why did he need a scapegoat in order to forgive humanity? Punishing the wrong person for a transgression committed by another is a really bad/poor law system. Why did he not just say “You are all forgiven and have a clean slate as result”? Would a god that simply forgives not be better than a god that needs to see something innocent suffer in order to forgive? It would by any reasonable standard. Punishing the innocent for the crimes of the guilty cannot be an attribute of a perfect god. We can even ask if the need to punish belongs to the concept of a perfect god at all. Would a better god not be free from a desire or even need to punish? Would a perfect god not be free of any needs, even self imposed ones? So why this need to see something suffer?

Now, Christians say that God is all-just and all-lawful, and therefore he requires that a wrong deed be punished. Sure, but then he is bound by this need, he cannot violate it, right? A perfect god would not be bound by anything and least of all self-imposed restrictions. His concept of law is also questionable. Even humans don’t allow an innocent person to be punished for the crimes of another. It is like crucifying the neighbour’s child if your own has been up to mischief. Or, more in line with the Biblical story, it is like crucifying your own child because the neighbours’s kids stole your apples. And somehow torture is also required by this just god, simple death is not enough. Jesus was tortured and if you don’t accept his torture as your own fault, well, then you will be tortured in fire for all eternity. This is not “just” in any reasonable sense of the word. A perfect god could do better, like simply forgive or simply rectify the situation once and for all so that no more people need to suffer or be tortured. My concept of a perfect god is that such a good and perfect god would have found a way to deal with the issues to everyone’s satisfaction. Or, even better: A perfect god would have planned well enough so that all this torture and suffering was never *required* in the first place.

Christians claim that only a small percentage of humanity will escape eternal damnation or in other words, eternal torture in hell. If Jesus was God’s plan to save humanity from hell and only a small percentage is saved, then one has to question whether the plan was really a good plan after all. A better plan would have saved more than a small percentage, lets say 50% at least. An even better plan would have saved more, say about 80%. Yet it is clear that a perfect plan would have saved 100%. Since 100% is not saved by god’s plan it leaves us to conclude that his plan was not perfect. A perfect god would have had a perfect plan for salvation. Actually, no. A perfect god would have planned well enough so that salvation was not required in the first place. The doctrine of salvation is after all very simple. God made man, and made him curious. God planted tree and said: “Man, do not eat from that tree”. Curious man ate from the tree, as was to be expected. Suffering and mayhem follows. God tries to rescue man by torturing his own son. Son dies. Son is alive again. Man is only rescued if man believes all of this. Why? Why does man have to believe that innocent Jesus was tortured by God in order to be saved? After all, Jesus was tortured as was required and so the deed is done. God’s requirement to see someone suffer was fulfilled. God’s torturing requirement is fulfilled. Why then another requirement, the requirement for man to believe all this *and* worship the god? Why not just do the rescue plan and leave it at that? It’s like handing out food to the dying hungry, but only if they worship you. Not a moral act at all.

Speaking about worship. Why would a perfect god require to be worshipped anyway? Would a god that does not require anything and worship in particular not be a better god? It would. Person A wants to torture everyone that does not worship person A. Person B does not require people to worship him and have no desire (or demand on himself) that people be tortured. Person B is the better person. Since I can conceive of a better god than the Christian god that requires worship and total submission, well, then my concept of god is closer to perfection and therefore the Christian concept cannot lay absolute claim to perfection anymore.

It is assumed by the Christians that their god is good. If there are two options to us: A god who deceives people and a god who has no deception. What option would be the better option and therefore closer to perfection? Yes, the honest god is the better god. Yet, the Bible says this about the Christian god:

1 Kings 22:23
Now, therefore, behold, the Lord hath put a lying spirit in the mouth of these thy prophets, and the Lord hath spoken evil concerning thee.

2 Chronicles 18:22
Now therefore, behold, the Lord hath put a lying spirit in the mouth of these thy prophets.

Ezekiel 14:9
And if a prophet be deceived when he hath spoken a thing, I the Lord have deceived that prophet.

2 Thessalonians 2:11
For this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie.

A better god would not deceive people in a bad way or in any way for that matter. Plain and simple. I mean, it’s hard enough trying to figure out this life. A god that complicates things by deceiving us and causing us to harbour falsehoods is not a good thing, not a good thing at all. Even worse is the problem that people who get confused about what god wants might just end up in hell for it. God wants good works. No, god wants you to accept Jesus. No, god wants you to love other people above all. No, god wants you to love him above all. What if the whole Jesus thing was just a clever deception by the Old Testament god so that he could punish the people? After all, based on the above scripture you cannot claim that god would not deliberately deceive you! Maybe Christianity was the Judean god’s revenge on the Romans for conquering the Israelites?

Looking into detail at various parts of the Bible it is easy to see ways where the god could have been a better god. There are a multitude of examples to be found. Killing children with bears because they laughed at an old prophet is a bit extreme, even for an uptight god. Ordering the murder of woman, children, males and even animals is not the perfect way to deal with anything. In fact, humanity has recognised this for many years now and are trying their very best to stop these type of murderous practices. Are we perhaps more compassionate than the Christian god? Yes, we are. Who wishes guilty people to suffer an eternity? Not even the worst of human evils deserves an infinite punishment, because their crimes are simply finite. A perfect god would be better than us, would have more mercy and goodness, not less. We don’t torture people who steal and yet god is fine with torturing people simply because they do not worship him. You can say, yes, he is god, so he is allowed to. Why would you praise in your god that which you would hate in yourself? It simply shows that you are better than your concept of god.

There is therefore no good reason why any person would claim the Christian god is a perfect god. A perfect god would leave us in awe of his every action. It would leave us unable to wish for something better because he would simply be the best. But this doctrine of heaven for a few and eternal torture for the vast majority leaves us with the conclusion that it would be better (for humanity) if there was no god at all instead of the Christian concept of god actually existing. Since it is preferable to have no god than the Christian god, it is clear that having nothing is better than having the Christian god. A perfect god however would not leave us wishing that he did not exist. In all fairness, the things humanity would wish away are the more “evil” things in life. If a god is wished away we could perhaps wonder if there is any good in the concept to begin with.

One also cannot help but note that Christians claim their god is fair. Why do they claim this? It is based on the assumption that god is good and perfect and therefore perfectly fair. Any evidence to the contrary (as is found in the Bible) is argued away by saying we are not perfect and therefore cannot judge god’s actions. The assumption is that a perfect god would be perfectly fair. Since we established that the Christian concept of god is not perfect I am left to wonder why they assume he would be fair towards them, once they are dead. If there was a perfect god, and he was perfectly good, then one also has to wonder what his reaction would be to people who attributed evil deeds, such as killing an innocent (Jesus) to satisfy his own bloodlust, as good deeds to him? Would he perhaps be perfectly upset? A non-existing god is preferable to an upset god. Pascal’s wager is not the safe bet it seems at all. Can there be such a thing as perfect at all, let alone a perfect god?

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A letter from God.

September 9, 2008

From the beginning people assumed I must be perfect. It is a hard burden to bear when it is clear that I have made mistakes. And a perfect being… is a perfect being really perfect and all-mighty when it is incapable of being imperfect?

I made mistakes, big mistakes. What earthly parent would put a big chocolate tree up and forbid their children to taste it. What earthly parent would loose suffering, pain, shame and death when a child acts according to its curious nature? Yet I did it. It was my first mistake, but not my last.

I tried to rectify the mistakes I made in the Garden of Eden and made an ever bigger mess of things. I exterminated humanity because I blamed them for my own failings. Only Noah and his family I saved, because if I killed them too I would have had to admit I made a mistake in making humanity in the first place. I could not admit it then, but I must admit it now. Is a “perfect” being not allowed to say sorry for being imperfect? I made a mistake in exterminating humanity, save for a few. Why was it so important to me that people worship me and not the sun, the stars of nature? Could I not have loved them and left them in peace to be free? They did not harm me when they adored the sun and stars, yet I harmed them because I wanted to feel important.

I made a mistake when I sowed division amongst humanity at the Tower of Babel. Why should I have felt threatened when humanity wanted to stand together? My double standards showed again. They had unity and I destroyed it. Ever since that time humanity has never recovered from the divisions I engineered. People killed other people because they were different, different customs and different language. I engineered those differences and made a mistake in doing so. I sowed discord and humanity are still reaping the sorrows thousands of years later. I never fixed my mistake. I am sorry. I wanted to divide humans and ever since have been incapable of undoing my mistake. Now, I am sorry, because harmony would have been a much better choice. I was too self-important to see.

I am sorry I used the Israelites to exterminate groups of people that did not bow down to me. In my arrogance I decreed they should suffer and die because they did not worship me. I am sorry for the woman who had to see their children murdered before their eyes, to the husbands who had to bear the horror of their loved ones being raped, families condemned to a life of slavery because I was arrogant. I am sorry that my irrational anger even wanted their innocent animals dead. I am sorry I never dealt with my wrath, my hatred for those who did not adore me, my disgust in those who could not love me. I am sorry I made humanity suffer for my mistakes. I am sorry I expected the impossible and tortured humanity when they could not achieve the impossible.

I am sorry I made the Israelites suffer when they could not be perfect. I am sorry I visited wars, plague, famine and destruction on them because they could not worship me in the way I desired. I am sorry I did not see my own arrogance as the root for all the suffering and that I justified my horrid actions on the grounds that I am ultimate, more special, more valuable than humanity. It was always all about me. I was selfish and unreasonable. Ever I asked more from humanity than what I gave them. I made them imperfect and then made them suffer for it. I am sorry someone always had to suffer because I was always unhappy. Even a third of the angels quit heaven because they could not stand me. I am sorry I was to arrogant to consider the possibility that the fault was mine, not theirs. I was the problem, both for humanity and for the angels.

I am sorry I never stood up for woman in a time when males even sold them into slavery. I am sorry I did not intervene when they were shamed, raped, enslaved and treated like mere cattle. I am sorry I never stood up for females when priests claimed it was my will that woman should submit to men. I am also sorry that I impregnated Mary without her knowledge, without her consent. When a human does the same it is called rape, but when I did it I called it holy. I am sorry I violated Joseph’s fiancé, that I spoiled his love and shamed him in the eyes of his neighbours and family.

I am sorry that I was a dictator, a tyrant that demanded respect, love and unconditional obedience without earning any of it. I am sorry I was vindictive, petty and jealous. I am sorry for my arrogance and all the mistakes I made that I blamed on humanity. I am sorry about Sodom and Gomorrah. I made man’s sexual instincts and then punished man for it. I am sorry I murdered the first born Egyptian children, innocent children that could not have offended me. I could simply have spoken a word and the Israelites would have been transported out of Egypt to the promised land. But no, I had to make a scene, I had to demonstrate my power and in doing so once again demonstrated my desire to see someone suffer. I had to make the Israelites suffer for 40 years in a harsh desert because I wanted them to cry out to me. I am sorry I always demanded to be recognised as the most important thing ever.

I am sorry for the Bible. I inspired the writers but failed because my message was obscure, vain, unreasonable and unclear. Ever since people have been confused over what I meant, and ever since people killed other people because I did not provide them with a clear and coherent textbook for life. People died because I was not clear about my message, it is thus my fault. At times my promises to humanity was sincere and I really did intend to keep them, but always my anger and arrogance made me make excuses for why the promises never got fulfilled. I always blamed it on humanity. I avoided the truth. A perfect god would have found a perfect way around the imperfection of humanity. I never did. I thought if I punished them enough they would change and love me more. I was wrong. I punished them for their nature, the nature I gave them. I was to blame, not humanity. I started seeing my fault in making humanity suffer for my own mistakes and came up with the plan of Jesus. My followers became more like me and even to this day causes suffering and strife on Earth. I could have stopped it all, but did nothing.

Yet, even with Jesus I failed again. By the laws I decreed the vast majority of humanity will still suffer in hell, suffer because they are human, suffer *because* I made them human, suffer because *I* made mistakes. It seems every time I tried to intervene in the affairs of humanity I made it worse. They were not allowed to make mistakes and yet I punished humanity for every mistake that I made. The morals I demanded from humanity not even I could uphold. Not even I could love like I commanded. I tried to force humanity to love me by giving them fear. I am sorry for all the children’s nightmares about the tortures of hell. I am sorry for the agony the parents felt when their children could not adore me anymore, the nightmares of their children suffering in hell. I am sorry for all those death bed moments where the fear of hell could be seen naked in they eyes of those who were dying. I am sorry for their agony, for the fear they suffered. I tried to force humanity to worship me not by merits but by bribery and blackmail, heaven and hell. I am sorry for all the fear I authored. I am sorry for trying to break humans so that they could worship me. I was a tyrant and of the worst kind. I am sorry. My Jesus-plan was a failure, because once again I demanded that people worship me, and *only* me. My Jesus-plan was a sham. I thought if I tortured Jesus enough that I would not want to make anyone else suffer. I was wrong. I still made people suffer. In my dishonesty I tried to hide my tyrant nature and convince people that Satan caused the suffering. I smeared a fallen angel to take the blame for my actions. My Jesus-plan fixed nothing, the world is still the same and people still suffer and die. My PR plan failed.

I am sorry that I made viruses and bacteria, disease and cancer. I thought that if humanity suffered that they would see how small they are and how big I am. I wanted them to see how unimportant they are without me and how very important I am. I wanted their adoration. Millions of innocent children died from painful diseases, diseases that I made. They died because I made mistakes. They died because I wanted to force humanity to love me. They died because I wanted the love I never gave. I am sorry for every natural disaster I ever sent to harm humanity. I now realise that fear is not the fruits of love, that killing people as a lesson to those who survive is not love, nor moral, nor fair, not justice and not divine.

I am sorry for every loving prayer, every honest request that I ignored. I ignored the prayers of those who cried out for me to ease the suffering, on themselves, their neighbours or even their children. I did not heed it because I am god and do not answer to anyone. Yet, they prayed for relief, they prayed in human love and I did nothing because I had none. They were better than I. They begged for relief and compassion while I caused suffering. They begged me to stop making them suffer and I did nothing because someone had to suffer for the imperfections I left behind.

I am sorry that Jesus had to suffer. He suffered for one reason only, because *I* needed to see someone suffer. I could not accept responsibility for my own failures and wanted to see someone else die, to take the blame that belonged to me. Jesus did not die for humanity’s sins, he died for mine.

To this world: I am sorry. I have wronged humanity and this world. I am beyond forgiveness. I am sorry I made you imperfect and then blamed it on you. I am sorry I gave you a nature and then condemned you for having it. I am sorry I tried to force you to worship me by giving you the blackest fear you could imagine. I am sorry I bribed you with heaven. I am sorry I blackmailed you with hell. I am sorry than even to this day people die because of what I wrote in the Bible and I am sorry that to this day I did nothing to fix my mistakes. I am sorry for my own nature, my nature that demands it’s daily dose of suffering in others. I am sorry I demanded on pain of death that you control your nature (that I gave you) and yet I could not control my own. I am sorry that I am imperfect and wanted you to suffer because of it. I am sorry that I am your god because you deserve a better one. You would have been better of without me in the first place. You would have been better off with no god at all.