There’s lots more we could say about the Gospel Hypothesis and the Myth Hypothesis, but I’m going to wrap up this series with the big one: sin and evil. If the Myth Hypothesis is true, then there’s no reason to expect the universe to be particularly concerned about our well-being and happiness. As material beings, we’re going to be subject to the same limitations, weaknesses, and life expectancy of any other material organism. We’re going to depend on—and compete for—material resources like food and shelter, and sometimes those things are going to be lacking. A certain amount of suffering is going to be normal, but we’re going to care about it and want to avoid it, and so we’re going to identify it as “evil” or some similar concept.
“Sin,” in the sense of offense committed against a deity, won’t exist per se, but offenses against people will. To the extent that we identify certain behaviors as socially unacceptable, we’ll have what you might call sins, even without any gods. And to the extent that people are willing to forgive us for our offenses, we’ll even have forgivable sin, repentance, and redemption, all without God. People may forgive sin, or not, but there won’t be any gods to do so. Thus, there won’t be any divine punishments for sin either. There will, of course, be natural disasters, which superstitious people may arbitrarily attribute to God, but God Himself won’t ever show up and say, “This happened because I was angry about such-and-such.” It will all be superstition.
But now let’s think for a moment about what the world would be like, given the premise of a perfectly loving, perfectly good, perfectly wise, and perfectly powerful Creator. Nothing will ever exist except the things He creates, and since He is a perfect Creator, nothing He creates will ever be flawed. Everything He makes will turn out exactly the way He intended it to, and will behave exactly as He intended it to behave. People will still have free will and freedom of choice, but they’ll develop their free agency by choosing between a range of options, all of which are good.
The Gospel Hypothesis, in other words, implies a world without sin and evil. This is the part of the Gospel’s conflict with reality that believers have never been able to work their way around. They have tried to suggest that evil is required in some way in order to achieve some good goal that could never be achieved without it. But think about that that implies. Not only does this mean that “the end justifies the means” and that it’s ok to resort to evil as long as you have good intentions, it also implies that evil has a greater power to produce goodness than perfect goodness alone. Or in other words, goodness alone isn’t really perfect goodness, because without evil, it falls short of ultimate goodness.
What we’re saying, therefore, is that God cannot be perfectly good unless He is also evil. You cannot achieve the full perfection of goodness unless evil is present to do what goodness alone cannot. Goodness, apart from evil, is incomplete, and inadequate. It must be, because if it were possible to achieve the perfection of goodness without resorting to evil, then there’s no reason for creation to contain any more evil than the Creator does.
The existence of a world in which sin and evil exist, therefore, leads to a logical self-contradiction in the Gospel. If sin and evil are necessary in order to achieve ultimate goodness, then God Himself cannot achieve ultimate goodness unless sin and evil are eternally present in His own nature. The original source of evil has to come from within God Himself. Otherwise, if we agree that evil is not required in order to achieve ultimate goodness, then we’ve agreed that no logical necessity can force the Almighty to incorporate evil directly or indirectly into His plan for the ages. And since He neither needs nor wants to resort to sin and evil, no sin and evil will ever exist.
This is perhaps the clearest and most incontrovertible difference between the Myth Hypothesis and the Gospel Hypothesis. The Gospel Hypothesis is not only starkly incompatible with conditions in the real world, but even the rationalizations are feeble and self-contradictory. The believer’s only recourse is to ignore the facts; they cannot be reconciled with his or her faith.
The Myth Hypothesis has no such problem. Once again, real-world conditions are exactly what we would expect to find as a result of the Myth Hypothesis being true. There are no excuses that need to be made and no inconsistencies that need to be explained. Everything just fits, as is.
People sometimes ask, “How can you know there is no God? Are you omniscient?” But we don’t need to be omniscient to know that 2+2 equals 4 and not 17 or 33 or “purple”. We do not need to know everything that is true in order to recognize the flaws and inconsistencies when people tell us things that are not true. There may be, on some distant planet, some multi-legged, multi-eyed being that in some limited sense is some kind of “god” completely unlike anything any human has ever imagined. But the impossible, unrealistic, self-contradictory God that people do imagine is a God who does not exist and never has. And you and I can know it.