Impotent or Evil?


‘Of course, people of all faiths regularly assure one another that God is not responsible for human suffering. But how else can we understand the claim that God is both omniscient and omnipotent? This is the age-old problem of theodicy, of course, and we should consider it solved. If God exists, either He can do nothing to stop the most egregious calamities, or He does not care to. God, therefore, is either impotent or evil. You may now be tempted to execute the following pirouette: God cannot be judged by human standards of morality. But we have seen that human standards of morality are precisely what you use to establish God’s goodness in the first place. And any God who could concern Himself with something as trivial as gay marriage, or the name by which He is addressed in prayer, is not as inscrutable as all that.

There is another possibility, of course, and it is both the most reasonable and least odious: the biblical God is a fiction, like Zeus and the thousands of other dead gods whom most sane human beings now ignore. Can you prove that Zeus does not exist? Of course not. And yet, just imagine if we lived in a society where people spent tens of billions of dollars of their personal income each year propitiating the gods of Mount Olympus, where the government spent billions more in tax dollars to support institutions devoted to these gods, where untold billions more in tax subsidies were given to pagan temples, where elected officials did their best to impede medical research out of deference to The Iliad and The Odyssey, and where every debate about public policy was subverted to the whims of ancient authors who wrote well, but who didn’t know enough about the nature of reality to keep their excrement out of their food. This would be a horrific misappropriation of our material, moral, and intellectual resources. And yet that is exactly the society we are living in. This is the woefully irrational world that you and your fellow Christians are working so tirelessly to create.

It is terrible that we all die and lose everything we love; it is doubly terrible that so many human beings suffer needlessly while alive. That so much of this suffering can be directly attributed to religion—to religious hatreds, religious wars, religious taboos, and religious diversions of scarce resources—is what makes the honest criticism of religious faith a moral and intellectual necessity. Unfortunately, expressing such criticism places the nonbeliever at the margins of society. By merely being in touch with reality, he appears shamefully out of touch with the fantasy life of his neighbors.’

Harris. S. 2006. Letter To A Christian Nation p. 18-19

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2 thoughts on “Impotent or Evil?

  1. The most evil creature that has walked or walks this earth is man. What he makes up in his head to justify evil actions is a fantasy I (and everyone) should seek to separate from. Though I still believe in a divine Creator- I do not make it my focus to create or perpetuate a religion to control people and their behavior and thoughts. I wish people would just accept diversity and differences- we are not robots after all- and the more these fundamentalists try to make us robots- the more they will epically fail.

  2. “I do not pretend to be able to prove that there is no God. I equally cannot prove that Satan is a fiction. The Christian god may exist; so may the gods of Olympus, or of ancient Egypt, or of Babylon. But no one of these hypotheses is more probable than any other: they lie outside the region of even probable knowledge, and therefore there is no reason to consider any of them.”
    — Bertrand Russell —

    “Where is the graveyard of dead gods? What lingering mourner waters their mounds?”
    — H. L. Menken —

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