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Dec 17 2012

Gospel Hypothesis 2: the voice of God

In Gospel Hypothesis 1, we looked at the most obvious consequence that would result from the existence of an almighty, all-loving, all-wise God: He would be here with us, tangibly, visibly, and audibly interacting with us because He loves us and wants to build the kind of deep, personal relationship with us that will produce the kind of faith in Him that He wants us to have. But would He always show up in tangible form? Maybe you’re Felix Baumgartner standing on a tiny platform miles above the earth, and there’s just not room for another person to stand next to you. Or maybe you’re a woman taking a shower, and it would just be awkward to have your Father walk in on you. What do the Gospel Hypothesis and the Myth Hypothesis imply regarding the voice of God?

According to the Gospel Hypothesis, God is all-good, all-loving, all-knowing, and all-powerful. Would a God like that be capable of speaking directly to our hearts and minds? Obviously He could indeed. The next question, then, is would He? Again, obviously yes. He’s all-loving, and love desires communication and contact.

What, then, is He going to say? He’s all-good, so He’s not going to lie to us or deceive us. He’s not going to tell the Catholics that the Pope is the vicar of Christ and then tell the Baptists that the Pope is the Antichrist, or tell Fred Phelps that He hates gays and then turn around and tell gays that He loves them. He’s going to preach the same, consistent Gospel to each and every member of the human race, from the time they’re old enough to understand speech.

That’s going to have some significant consequences of its own. There won’t be any atheists, for one thing, because God is going to be perfectly capable of answering every objection any atheist might propose. But no one is going to raise any atheistic objections in the first place, since everyone is in constant communication with Him, and it would just be silly to deny it.

You’re also not going to be able to deceive people. It’s very hard to tell a lie in the presence of someone who knows and cares about the truth, and God is Someone Who knows and cares about the truth. The only way you could ever get away with lying to someone would be if God wanted them to be deceived, and He’s never going to want that, because He’s all-good and all-loving. Not only would a lie be harmful to the victim, but keeping silent would make God Himself an accessory to the deception, and thus a sinner. In the presence of an all-good and all-loving God, deception and even misunderstandings would be impossible.

This in turn is going to have a serious impact on the possibility of war. All potential combatants are going to worship the same God, who is going to be in constant contact with all parties. And what better diplomat could you ask for than an almighty, peace-loving God? Granted, some people might not want to obey God, but if the carrot doesn’t work, there’s always the stick. Are you going to go to war against the people you know are on God’s side, knowing that He is telling them exactly where you’re going to strike? Desert or surrender now, soldiers, ’cause you ain’t winning this one.

The same is true for lesser forms of violence. God knows exactly when and where the terrorists and muggers are going to strike, and he knows exactly who’s swindling whom, and so on. It’s going to be essentially impossible to get away with any kind of malfeasance, because God is watching, and He tells on you.

Clearly, the Gospel Hypothesis has some striking implications, but so does the Myth Hypothesis. If the Myth Hypothesis is true, then there is no god to speak to mankind, and thus the “voice of God” is going to consist of whatever people imagine it to be. That means every believer is going to imagine God saying whatever seems right in their own eyes. Different religions will arise, shaped and formed by various psychosocial influences and political trends. Divisions will arise within religions and between religions. People will come to power on the strength of their ability to declare for others what the “voice of God” is saying. And in the absence of any real god to serve as a common point of reference, there won’t be any way for believers to converge on one, common, worldwide religion.

The absence of any real God will also reduce God to “saying” only what people think and expect. The voice of God won’t be able to tell you anything you didn’t already know or couldn’t make a wild guess about. Believers will have to resort to the use of rigged scorekeeping, where you throw out a bunch of guesses and/or prayers regarding the future, and then only count the ones that work. Superstition will be the only “infallible” guide to what God has said, and then only with respect to what He’s said about things where you already know the outcome. He can’t tell you what you don’t already know, because He doesn’t exist.

So the Myth Hypothesis implies strikingly different results than are implied by the Gospel Hypothesis. What does the real world evidence say? Here’s a hint: believers are going to look at the implications of the Gospel Hypothesis, and then immediately begin proposing additional rationalizations designed to make the Gospel Hypothesis predict the same things the Myth Hypothesis does. The Myth Hypothesis is not only our best guide to what we’re going to find in the real world, but it’s also the best guide to what kind of additional rationalizations believers are going to invent in order to try and make it sound like there really is an all-everything deity out there.

That kind of reliability can’t be just a coincidence.

6 comments

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  1. 1
    grumpyoldfart

    Thanks, I enjoyed that.

  2. 2
    wholething

    In the Rigged Scorekeeping System, “answered” prayers get a million points while the others go ito the “Not Answered Yet” bin, to be pulled out and given a million points should some coincidence happen.

    1. 2.1
      mikespeir

      I wish I’d said that.

  3. 3
    bobafuct

    Of course certain Christians would reply that God’s glory would be incomplete if EVERYONE was saved. This is how it goes: God says he is merciful; Mercy is not giving someone a punishment they deserve; If god didn’t condemn us, he couldn’t show us mercy and save us; if he saved everyone, then there technically never was condemnation; therefore, some people must be condemned for god to show the full measure of his mercy; so because some MUST be condemned, god can’t just come out of the closet because if he showed himself so obviously, then everyone would believe.

    It’s pretty simple really, I don’t know why you atheists can’t seem to get it.

    /sarcasm

  4. 4
    Bill Openthalt

    Is the Gospel Hypothesis’ definition of god as

    all-good, all-loving, all-knowing, and all-powerful

    not a tad overambitious? The AG at least has always favoured a particular group (the believers) at the expense of other groups (the non-believers). Granted, non-believers can become believers if the message reaches them, but the nature of god as taught by the catholics is not as superlative as you suggest. Take limbo, for example, where the souls of unbaptised children reside. They cannot help it they were never baptised, but they are second-class citizens of the hereafter. Learning about limbo was what started me doubting christianity.

    The gospels portray god as a rather spiteful, vengeful and jealous being, who has to tolerate the actions of satan (whom he created) and wants to test the slavish obedience of his creatures. It is a god that has no problems tempting humans and then casting them into hell if they give in. The AG might be all-knowing and all-powerful, but is most certainly not inclined to treat all people the same — you have to believe in him to get the decent treatment, and even then he is wont to make the believers suffer to ensure their faith is deep enough.

    Are you sure your definition isn’t a strawman?

    1. 4.1
      Deacon Duncan

      Call it rather a starting point. Let’s begin with the definition of God that makes Him perfect in every aspect of His nature, and let believers be the ones to object that God isn’t really as perfect as all that. Once you start questioning the perfection of God in the light of real-world evidence and reason, you’ve started down the road to skepticism and unbelief. And that’s exactly what I’d like to encourage.

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