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Dec 15 2012

Such a petty god

Alyson Miers has a good post on the “god didn’t prevent the shootings at Sandy Hook because secularism” meme.

To those of us who believe in no God at all, you’re saying that your God is an asshole. You’re telling us that making everyone worship Him is more important to God than saving children’s lives.

To those who believe in different gods, or different ideas of the same God, you’re telling them that they are part of the problem because they want their children to go to school in a non-sectarian environment. You are asking them to think there would be less violence in the world if they allowed your religious traditions to be honored in the public sphere, at taxpayer expense, above their own.

The more you think about the claim, the weirder it gets. God is that childish? Really? You want to go with that?

This is an omniscient god, don’t forget. An omniscient god would be aware of the reasons people have for favoring secularism, including our long history of religious wars and persecution. It seems odd to think that such a god would be so put out by not being invited into public school classrooms that it would simply refuse to prevent Adam Lanza from killing all those children.

It seems odd to believe in – and worship – a god who would refuse to prevent things like that out of sheer spite. Abortion is supposed to be such a terrible crime, but god letting murders and earthquakes and wars do their worst is perfectly fine.

They don’t see it that way. I know. But it’s odd that they don’t. (Well, some do, and thus you get Teresa McBains and Jerry DeWitts.)

17 comments

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  1. 1
    badgersdaughter

    Oh, indeed. And this is the God who they want in the public schools, this vindictive, criminally indifferent bastard.

  2. 2
    Curcuminoid

    The initial stage of the tragedy was the murder of the mother in her home. Religion is strongly protected in private residences, so why couldn’t God stop it there?

  3. 3
    Argle Bargle

    According to certain theists of the Jesus persuasion, their god is responsible for all the good stuff in life, like finding a tenner in your jacket pocket or Tim Tebow not throwing an interception. But the same god has nothing to do with bad stuff. That happens because people aren’t kissing god’s buttocks hard enough.

  4. 4
    Wowbagger, Designated Snarker

    Don’t forget Satan. Whenever there’s no other way for a believer to explain his/her god’s unwillingness/incompetence then they can always lay the blame at Satan’s feet (hooves?).

  5. 5
    Neil Rickert

    The more you think about the claim, the weirder it gets. God is that childish? Really? You want to go with that?

    It actually makes sense, if you go with the idea that people have created God in their own own image. Loving people create a loving God, hateful people create a hateful God, and whacked out nutjobs create a whacked out nutjob of a God.

  6. 6
    laconicsax

    “To those of us who believe in no God at all, you’re saying that your God is an asshole. You’re telling us that making everyone worship Him is more important to God than saving children’s lives.”

    Yeah, erm…that’s what the Bible actually says about the Abrahamic god.

  7. 7
    Stacy

    Somebody on Facebook compared this petty god to a vampire. You have to invite him in.

  8. 8
    Bjarte Foshaug

    Yeah, erm…that’s what the Bible actually says about the Abrahamic god.

    Let’s face it: The argument from evil sucks.

    It’s always embarrassing to hear other atheists rage about the atrocities of the biblical God and then go on to argue that that very same evil monster cannot possibly exist because the existence of evil is incompatible with a perfectly good God. Something like the Holocaust is exactly what I for one would expect if an omni-malevolent monster like Yahweh was real and in charge of everything.

    Of course to fundamentalists words like “goodness”, “benevolence”, “justice” etc. are just different names for “Whatever God happens to be/want/do”, whether it’s ordering genocides, demanding people to be stoned to death for victimless crimes, forcing anyone who disobeys him to eat their children, exterminating all life on Earth or deliberately creating the worst of all possible worlds for the sole purpose of having the vast majority of humanity tortured for eternity for though crime. Of course, anyone is free to use words in any way they want, but then a sentence like “God is good” is just an empty tautology (“God is whatever God is”), and they have merely shifted the problem from whether or not “God is good” (true by definition) to whether or not being “good” is worth striving for anyway.

  9. 9
    John Morales

    Bjarte:

    Let’s face it: The argument from evil sucks.

    Not when it’s brought up in response to the claim that God is omnipotent, omniscient and omnibenevolent.

  10. 10
    Bjarte Foshaug

    John, I think that presupposes that we already have an agreed upon definition of “omnibenevolent” that doesn’t make whatever God does “benevolent” by definition, and even if we did, it’s too easy to fall back on “God’s will is inscrutable” and “No matter how cruel this may seem to us, it’s actually both good and just for reasons that are only known to God and of no concern to us”,

  11. 11
    Jeremy Shaffer

    It seems odd to believe in – and worship – a god who would refuse to prevent things like that out of sheer spite.

    This is paraphrasing a quote from Marcus Aurelius* that I like when this type of subject is brought up: “If the god is just what does the unbeliever have to fear? If the god is unjust what does the believer hope to serve?”

    * I’ve never been able to varify that he actually said that but I think it hardly matters as who may have said it as that does not remove any sentiment from the statement. That’s just who I’ve seen it attributed to.

  12. 12
    Acolyte of Sagan

    I’ve just left the following(with a couple of minor changes to reflect the fact that I’m not ‘known’ here as I am there) at http://www.jesusandmo.net but it seems relevant here too.

    A tragedy beyond comprehension; I’m not an overly emotional, weepy type by any stretch of the imagination, but my eyes are still sore from the tears I shed as the details of this latest mass-slaughter began to emerge. Kids, for fuck sake! Not college kids nor even high school kids, just little children; little children that were barely older than my eldest grandson. What a fucking horrible world we live in!
    Maybe it was because of my own emotional state at the time – though maybe not, as I still feel the same – but there were two items in the news coverage that to my mind were simply insulting to the dead.
    The first was the reporting of a vigil held at a church* near to the school, which had been filmed as the congretation sang ‘Amazing Grace’. Amazing? Grace? Will somebody please tell me how that particular hymn was even remotely appropriate?
    The second was an interview with a pro-gun lobbyist who, after saying that the guns used were legally owned under the ‘God-given right’ of the first amendment, stated that this latest multiple-slaughter is “not a gun control issue; it’s a mental health issue”! Funny how some Americans pick and choose which amendments to follow to the letter, and which to interpret to suit. The right to bear arms is apparently written in stone, seperation of church and state however….. I could have shot the fucker there and then, and I know that I’m sane.

    *It never ceases to amaze me that so many will respond to a tragedy of this – or indeed of any magnitude by giving praise and thanks to a god** that had presumably just allowed it to happen; even more so when they basically say that it happened because their god places greater value on being loved than on the lives of so many innocents, not only the dead but their families, friends, and communities, not to mention the survivors who will undoubtedly be scarred for life – both physically for the wounded, but to a greater extent mentally, by the horrors they were forced to witness.

    **I’m done with capitalising god, allah, jaweh, and the rest of the pantheon of ‘one true’ gods. Most of you won’t know my views on the usage of the English language (in a nutshell: do it right or don’t do it at all) which in this case concerns the capitalisation of a proper noun. However, a proper noun’s primary application refers to a unique entity, and I’ll have to lose my mind before I will ever again accept their malevolent figments of the imagination as either unique or entities, in any manner, shape or form. Fuck the lot of ‘em: the invented ‘perfect’ gods, and their followers who continue to insist that their ‘perfect’ gods’ roles in such terrible events are……perfect. Because it’s god. Yep, fuck ‘em all.

    I am generally a happy-go-lucky type, and so my comments on the various fora I frequent tend to contain at least an attempt at humour or light-heartedness, no matter what the topic. Some days, however, it’s impossible. This is one of those days.
    And I’m crying again.

  13. 13
    ezraresnick

    I’m also disturbed by seemingly innocuous claims like those of a Newtown clergyman:

    Olivia Engel had a part in a nativity play at St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church. “She was supposed to be an angel in the play. Now she’s an angel up in heaven,” Monsignor Robert Weiss told a standing-room-only crowd at the church before the play on Saturday.

    I’ve written more about this type of (dangerous) false consolation here.

  14. 14
    Acolyte of Sagan

    ezraresnick
    December 16, 2012 at 8:50 am
    ………………
    Now she’s an angel up in heaven……….I’ve written more about this type of (dangerous) false consolation……

    And I’m sure that we’ll be hearing many more similar platitudes over the coming weeks, because as much as we know that it’s a false hope it certainly is comforting to some to believe it. But you’re right, it can be damaging. Sadly, it took a personal tragedy for me to realise just how damaging this sort of idea can be, and how devastating the sudden loss of a child is. My heart goes out to those who lost their loved ones in such a sudden and senseless way; I know exactly the ordeal they are now suffering, and will be for a long time to come, and I really wish that I didn’t.
    Twenty-odd years ago my seemingly healthy and robust niece (daughter of my youngest brother) died. She’d been a little off-colour for a couple of days; her doctor said that there was nothing wrong with her, maybe a mild ‘bug’ (that old catch-all) and that my brother and sister-in-law were being over-anxious, so you can imagine the devastation we all felt when, the day after the doctor’s diagnosis, she collapsed at school. was taken to hospital and, three short hours later, after her vital organs had systematically failed, she died in my brother’s arms of a heart attack. She was 5 years old.
    My brother is much younger than I but we were always very close, and he always came to me for help and advice on matters both trivial and serious. He respected and trusted my opinions and advice over any other, and it was our conversations about religion, specifically my reasons for being atheist, that caused him to drop his belief in god when he was in his early 20′s.
    But then my niece died.
    I was the first person he ‘phoned after my niece died – a call that will forever be etched into my memory – and they were the last words he spoke to me for nearly 10 years. I was away on business at the time, but obviously dropped everything on the spot and drove for 25 hours straight to be with him, but he blanked me when I arrived and sent word that I was not to attend the inquest, and was not to even approach him at the funeral, nor was I allowed to give a eulogy at the service. He even tore up the wreath I’d placed at her grave. As upsetting as it was, I put it down to grief, maybe even a mental breakdown of sorts; perfectly understandable under the circumstances, and something that would surely heal soon. As I said earlier, it was almost 10 years before he spoke to me again, and in all that time he refused to tell anybody why he had cut me off so suddenly and completely.
    It wasn’t until he ‘phoned me out of the blue all those years later and asked to meet that I found out what had happened.
    Long story short; religion happened! Devastated by his loss, he was unable to come to terms with the fact that she was gone forever; no god = no heaven = no meeting again. But religion, in the form of a poison-spouting priest, gave him the promise of a reunion, as well as the veiled accusation that her death was a punishment on him for turning away from god. Of course, it was my fault he became atheist, so it followed that it was my fault she died. He plunged headlong back into religion, and spent the next ten years blaming me for her death, yet unable to tell me in case I knocked his faith again, thereby removing his hope of seeing her again, and he couldn’t face losing her twice.
    For ten years, neither of us could grieve properly; we had both lost a child that we loved equally, and we had lost each other. I came to terms with my niece’s death, but grieved for a brother who was still alive; but by going back to religion he had delayed his grief for his daughter, believing – or seriously wanting to believe – that their parting was temporary. Deep down, he knew he was clinging to a false hope but refused to acknowledge it, so was wracked with guilt for not mourning her properly, and for cutting me out of his life for what he knew all along was a false reason.
    I got away lightly; I just lost a brother for a few years, but I can’t pretend that that period was anything less than a nightmare; imagine a much-loved brother being very much alive, yet to all intents and purposes dead. But this isn’t about me; I coped, and never gave up hope of a reconciliation.
    For my brother, however, the death of his daughter was just the start of his own tragedy. The guilt and stress he felt changed him terribly. Fortunately he eventually began to listen to his inner doubts and start the healing process, but not before his erratic and often violent new persona had wrecked his marriage, losing him his two sons in the process, destroyed his promising career in architecture, lost him his house – eventually causing him to become homeless, and led to alcoholism, drug addiction and eventually several prison terms. It was only when he was at absolute rock bottom that he decided that he had only two choices left that he had the power to act on; contact me and try to sort things out, or commit suicide.
    By one of those strange coincidences that life throws up, I was once again away on business when I got his call; once again I drove throughout the night and following day to get to him.
    We are closer now than ever before, but more importantly, he has finally laid his little girl to rest.

    And all because a vulture of a priest happened to be in the hospital when my niece died and planted the idea that she was already sat on a fluffy cloud, preening her wings and looking forward to seeing her Daddy again.

    I fucking hate religion.

  15. 15
    Ophelia Benson

    Oh, jeezis god.

    That’s so horrifying. So sad.

    I have nothing more cogent to say.

  16. 16
    Acolyte of Sagan

    I count myself as luckier than most, Ophelia, in that I lost two very dear people in the space of 48 hours, but I got one of them back. Even luckier is the fact that we are very similar physically, to the extent that even close family and friends are often hard pressed to tell us apart in photographs taken of us at similar ages, and often rely on nothing more than the clothes and hair-styles, the 20 year-old me wearing styles that were obviously of an earlier period than those of the 20 year-old him, and it was only this similarity that literally saved his life.
    One of the first things he told me once we started talking was that he hadn’t even considered contacting me at first. He had decided to give god one last try and had spent hours in prayer in his room at the ‘halfway house’ he had been released to as a condition of his parole, begging god to help him, but had got nothing in return. He said that he felt utterly and completely rejected, cast adrift by the one ‘person’ (his words) that he had believed would always be there to help and protect him in his darkest times, and even worse was that he had no idea what he had done to deserve it, or what else he could do do to make things better. With all this whirling round his mind, he decided there and then to end his life, and this is where that luck I mentioned made its appearance. As he got up off of his knees he caught sight of himself in a mirror, and said that his reflection was identical to my face the day after he buried his daughter, when I had begged and pleaded with him for nigh-on two hours to tell me what I’d done wrong and how I could make amends, whilst he just stared straight through me, refusing even to acknowledge my presence. It was at that moment that he fully realised that he had done to me in my time of need what god had done to him in his, and he determined to put off suicide until he had at least tried to make his peace with me. That was another ‘phone call I’ll never forget. My ‘phone rang, the receptionist of the company I worked for said “You’ve got a call from your brother, shall I put him through?” I’m one of five brothers, and the last thing I was expecting after 10 years of silence was my baby brother’s voice saying “I need you, big bro.”. I was in the car before he’d even finished telling me where he was staying.
    He’s still got the mirror (he ‘liberated’ it when he left the hostel); unsurprisingly, he’s still prone to occasional bouts of depression, but nowadays, whenever he starts to feel a bout coming on he simply sits and looks into the mirror. It’s a sad reflection (no pun intended) on religion that a cheap, shabby, cracked mirror has done him far more good than the god he believed in ever did, but as he said to me with a wry smile, “I know it sounds stupid, using a shitty piece of glass as a crutch, but it’s a constant reminder of the day I got my life back, and unlike the god that stole ten years from me,at least the mirror’s real”.

    Sorry for going on for so long, but this latest American tragedy, along with the ‘angels’ comment by Ezraesnick above, bought it all flooding back.

  17. 17
    ezraresnick

    Wow, that’s quite a powerful story… Thanks so much for sharing it.

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