People say that God is evil. They look at the Old Testament with disgust and remorse, viewing historical demonstrations of God’s power and authority as murderous genocide. In a recent conversation, I was presented with a few contradictory opinions regarding God:
- God is deeply immoral and has no moral right to interfere with our lives.
- God must not exist because it has not been demonstrably proven that He intervenes, preventing bad things from happening.
- If God does not intervene, He is deeply immoral.
After having this conversation, I came to a couple of realizations regarding God, morality, and our concept of right and wrong. I believe the best way to share this understanding may be through a thought experiment. So, I would like to examine the practicality of God intervening in our lives on a large scale, preventing murders and actively taking sides on moral issues.
How Would God Intervene
We all want God’s help in some aspect of our lives, in fact, many of us desperately want God to intervene. So I thought it would be pertinent to ask how God should intervene in a society as a whole. I mean, let’s be honest, if God intervenes in a way that we disagree with, how would a society respond to that? Clearly, from the first bullet point up above which claims God is deeply immoral, society would grow to resent Him.
You might be thinking that there is no way you would resent God for preventing the death of a loved one, right? Well, everyone dies in our natural world. Every single time someone dies of any cause whatsoever, it is because God has ordained death as a punishment for sin. It is a punishment necessary because of our knowledge of good and evil, not in spite of it.
Imagine a world without natural death. In this imaginary world, people live endlessly, but we still have free will and are capable of murder. Would the world be better or worse? Would our wars cease? Would our suffering and pain end? No, it would likely carry on endlessly, until we begged for the sweet release of death. This doesn’t sound like much of an improvement to me. This is why death was necessary after we started to question God in the garden of Eden.
So, we have established that God must first intervene within our hearts, resolving our moral differences before anything else. If God intervenes in a way which is not known, then it will be quite easy to dismiss God as nonexistent. If God does not mind being thought of as nonexistent then there is no reason to continue the discussion, so for the sake of the experiment let’s assume that God does want a relationship with us. If so, then God must intervene in a way which is known. This leaves us with two contradictory conclusions about God that can be used to dismiss Him.
- God is deeply immoral and has no moral right to interfere with our lives.
- If God does not intervene, He is deeply immoral or nonexistent.
Now, we cannot make the claim that God is immoral unless we make the claim that objective morality is fact and God is subject to it, any lesser claim results in universal subjective morality. Without objective morality, an individual must make the claim that their definition of morality is objectively better that God’s. This is obviously not possible, else objective morality would indeed exist and we could use that to objectively judge God. If any objective means of morality exist which are beyond God’s grasp of control, then indeed He would be subject to them, but if God did indeed create all things then morality is subject to Him and would therefore be subjective. Regardless, if an individual believes that their definition of morality is superior to God, and God is not intervening, why would they listen to God? And so they dismiss Him.
From this, we can now arrive at our second conclusion. In order people to know that God is working in their lives, God must intervene in a visible way.
- God must first intervene within our hearts, resolving our moral differences before anything else.
- God must intervene in a visible way.
So, how can God visibly intervene when we do something immoral? What practical options are at His disposal that we would recognize as His effort?
The Superman Approach
The first option is what I like to refer to as the “Superman approach”. God would take on an anthropomorphic form and literally fly around the world preventing bad things from happening. In this scenario, God can either interfere before the bad thing has transpired, or serve immediate punishment afterwards. Either way will work for the purposes of this thought experiment, so take your pick.
Alright, so we have our Superman ready to fly around the world preventing all sorts of atrocities. Where does he start? War seems like a good place right? Sure. So now he needs to intervene, but how? Does he take a side? Does he tell us that neither side is right and punish everyone? Is either side prepared to be told they are wrong? How would global governments react to a “person” flying around the world interfering in global conflicts and distributing justice as he see’s fit? Obviously this is not going to be well received and the morality of this Superman will be called into question.
Maybe we can think of a more clear cut place to start. So let’s start with murder. Our anthropomorphic Superman flies around the world preventing every murder that would be committed. What should he do with these attempted murderers? How would people around the world react to a man flying around the world convicting and punishing people he claims are attempted murderers? Who is keeping tabs on this person and ensuring he isn’t wrongly convicting people or serving some secret personal agenda? Obviously this is not going to be well received and the morality of this Superman will be called into question.
It does not matter where our anthropomorphic Superman first chooses to intervene, nor does it matter how he chooses to intervene, at the end of the day societies around the world will agree on one thing about him; he must be controlled. Why? Maybe we don’t agree with his methods, punishments, or motivations. Maybe we think he intervenes in areas where he shouldn’t. Or maybe we want him to intervene in areas where he currently doesn’t. And don’t forget the most important part of this whole anthropomorphic adventure; He sure doesn’t look like God.
There would be calls to confirm that this Superman is indeed God, and we will all disagree on what evidence can be presented which would confirm it.
For the sake of continuing this exercise, let’s just assume that the entire world becomes convinced that our Superman is indeed God. Now, all that remains are the answers to all of those other questions. Whose side is he on? Is he truly being fair? What makes him right and is wrong?
Do you think people might end up fighting each other and fighting back against God in this scenario? Because I certainly do, and I don’t think it would end very well.
The Purple Man Approach
Let’s take a look at another practical method by which God could visibly intervene. The Purple Man is a comic book villain who is able to control the physical actions of others. *Spoiler* The fact that I am using a villain to demonstrate this approach should give you some indication of how well received this approach will be.
In this approach, God would essentially “disable” our physical ability to carry out certain actions. Our ability to conceive of, and consequently our desire to commit, said actions will still remain, otherwise the intervention would not be visible or known to us and, as my friend pointed out, if God does not intervene then He is either immoral or He must not exist. Why does this matter? Because we would still appear to have free will. We would not be able to conceive of evil actions, and therefore would not recognize any intervention, but we would still have desires and suffering because suffering is relative. If I want a can of coke and cannot have it, and this just happens to be the worst thing that has ever happened to me in my life, then my lack of coke is literally the worst thing to happen to me in my life and God is doing nothing to stop it. You and I may think this is a silly notion, having lived in a world full of war, murder, rape, and so on, but to our hypothetical person, not being able to get a can of coke for a day is the worst thing imaginable. It is essentially the embodiment of natural evil. Why would a living God put me here and subject me to this, the worst thing I can possibly imagine?
In all seriousness, how is this any different from not being able to get a new truck, go on a dream vacation, or realizing that you need to grind away at a job you really dislike in order to do things that you would rather do? All of these are things that could still occur, and do commonly occur for us in our present lives. It is our knowledge of greater suffering that gives us the understanding of the mediocrity of these complaints. Without that perspective we would resent God for not intervening and making our lives better, and many of us resent God for this today regardless of our awareness of greater suffering.
Imagine how much worse that resentment would be if we were aware of our capability to lash out at others but were rendered incapable of acting on those emotions by God. We are quite creative when it comes to weaponizing things, I am sure we would find some new way to torment one another if we were aware of our desire for revenge, malice, or greed. Anyone befalling that torment would be likely to once again propose that God’s lack of intervention means that He agrees that their suffering is good, and as a result God must be immoral.
The True Cost of the Tree of Knowledge
This is the true cost of our knowledge of good and evil, or rather, our presumptive knowledge of what should be good and evil. Our pride, our certainty of understanding and conviction of our own benevolence stands in the way of any possible relationship that we could have with God as a society, as a nation, or as a species.
- If God does not visibly intervene, He is considered to be immoral or nonexistent.
- If God does visibly intervene, our subjective concept of morality would cause apprehension, dissent, and even violence.
Earth is not a utopia because we stand in our own way. The blame lies fully at our own feet, not with God. Our skewed perception of morality is why death is necessary, to prevent us from experiencing endless torment at the hands of one another, but it is also the very reason that God cannot visibly intervene in our lives as a society. This does not mean that God never intervenes by creating miracles, establishing personal relationships, or who knows what other methods. I am sure that if you reflect deeply on your life, and keep a close eye in the future, you will see God moving and intervening over time. This is because God is indeed benevolent and truly understands what is best for us, even if we can’t possibly fathom why our suffering is necessary. Even if we resent Him for it. Because, what is the alternative? How else do we learn to love? Frankly, there is no alternative.
If we want the gift of everlasting life we have to be prepared to receive it, or else it will be pure torment by our own hands. We need to understand what we are capable of, both good and bad, and learn that our only true path forward is one of love. A love of our neighbors and a love of God. When we are truly prepared to look to God for guidance, He will give us the guidance we need.