Sunday, October 09, 2005

Why the Abrahamic Gods are Inherently Evil

Some of you may be wondering why I attack religion so much. In part it is because the Talabangelicals facilitated Bush's rise to power. In part it is because the insane theology of the shadowy figures pulling the strings of those who pull Bush's strings makes the Talebangelicals look lucid, rational and moral. In part it's because I can and it's so easy to do it's a way for me to relax.

The Abrahamic religions are those derived from Abraham of what the Christians refer to as the Old Testament. The Abrahamic Gods are JHVH (also rendered as "Jahveh" and "Jehovah"), the Christian God/Jesus/Holy Ghost who are different yet the same (holy multiple personality disorder, Batman!), and Allah. And it can be proven, from simple facts and logical deduction that if one of those Gods exists as one of those religions describes Him then He is evil. This also applies to any non-Abrahamic monotheistic God who promises an eternal afterlife of bliss to his believers.

We are all born atheists (without religious faith). Religious faith is only acquired when we are old enough to hear and comprehend speech, and it is a process that takes several years. The religion one acquires is almost always that of one's parents to the point where it could be mistakenly perceived as being inherited. In fact religion isn't inherited but is acquired more in the manner of an infection. It is an infection that, like athlete's foot, most people cannot throw off by themselves. It is an infection that blocks different strains of the same infection (so if you are infected with Catholicism you won't be infected with Protestantism or Islam).

Some people do change their religion, but it is rare. A very small fraction lose their faith in one religion and switch to another (or to atheism). A very small fraction convert so they can marry somebody of a different religion. Occasionally a new religion arises (such as Mormonism) or a new religion splits off from an older religion (such as Protestantism from Catholicsm). But for the vast majority of people the religion they have is the religion their parents had. It's not a coincidence: parents indoctrinate their children with religion.

Most people do not wait until they are adults to choose a religion. Richard Dawkins suggested that if they did they might make a list of scores for best hymns, most comfortable pews, etc. Dawkins was being facetiously sarcastic to drive home a point. If one were to choose a religion as an adult one might assign scores based on how likely it was to be true, how moral it was, etc. But the vast majority do not, they follow the same religion as their parents almost as if they inherited it. This is important: in the vast majority of cases a person's religion is not a matter of choice but an accident of birth.

And there are so many Abrahamic religions. There are dozens of flavours of Judaism, dozens of flavours of Islam and thousands of flavours of Christianity. Each of those flavours says that it, and only it is the correct way to worship JHVH/God/Allah and that followers of the other flavours will burn in Hell for eternity for worshipping JHVH/God/Allah the wrong way. By their own arguments, no more than one of them can be the correct way to worship JHVJ/God/Allah. Why do I say "no more than one"? Because it's entirely possible that none of them are right.

However, let's assume that one of them is right. If you have a religion, then it just happens to be your flavour of your religion (WUnited Reformed Universal Seventh Day Adventist Baptists for JesusW, say, rather than the rival "Universal Reformed United Seventh Day Adventist Baptists for JesusW who differ on the important point of whether the left knee or right knee should be the first to touch the hassock when kneeling to pray) that is right. Congratulations! Of the many thousands of flavours of Christianity, yours just happens to be the right one. You've won the lottery, purely by accident.

I can hear the indignation in your voice as you say "It's not a matter of luck, I know my religion is the right one." So let me ask you how you know that.

You'll tell me that you have a Holy Book, the Babble Bible, which is the inerrant word of God. And I'll point out that Judaism has its holy scriptures, the Torah and the Talmud, and Islam has its holy scripture, the Qur'an.

You'll tell me that your priests tell you that the Bible is true, and they are holy men. And I'll point out that the Rabbis say the same of the Torah and Talmud, and the Mullahs say the same of the Qur'an.

You'll tell me that your priests must be right because God has personally spoken to them and told them so. I'll point out that Rabbis and Mullahs say the same.

You'll tell me that you know your flavour of your religion is the correct one because you opened your heart to God and He spoke to you, which He would not do if you were following the wrong religion (except perhaps to tell you to convert to the right religion). And I can point to millions of Catholics, Protestants, Wesleyans, Reformed Jews, Orthodox Jews, Sunnis, Shi'ites, etc. who all say the same thing. JHVH/God/Allah has spoken to them personally and told them that their flavour of their religion is the one true religion and followers of anything else (that's you) will burn in Hell forever for following the wrong religion.

They can't all be right. Like I said, you got lucky through an accident of birth: your parents just happened to follow the right religion. Your parents were lucky because their grandparents just happened to follow the right religion. And so it goes, through your ancestors, until we come to the point where your flavour of your religion branched off from another religion. Some of your ancestors made the right choice (because God spoke to them personally and told them to follow the new religion) and some of your ancestors made the wrong choice (because God spoke to them personally and told them to follow the wrong religion).

So why is it that God speaks to the vast majority of people who follow one of the thousands of wrong religions and tells them they are following the right religion? Here are the possible answers:

  1. It is very common for people to hallucinate that God is talking to them, telling them whatever they want to hear. When Paddy O'Rourke hears God telling him that Catholicism is the one true way, he's imagining it. When Sarah McNeil hears God telling her that the Church of Scotland is the one true way, she's imagining it. When Brian Smith hears God telling him that Mormism is the one true way, he's imagining it. When Osama bin Laden hears Allah telling him that Wahabi Islam is the one true way, he's imagining it. When Isaac Goldstein hears JHVH telling him that Orthodox Judaism is the one true way, he's imagining it.

    Only you, and the other tiny fraction of all religious people that share your faith, are not hallucinating when God speaks to you. I find it very implausible that the small numbers of your faith are immune from the hallucinations that afflict the followers of every other faith, but it's not impossible. However, if true, God is evil.

    Why? Because of all those other souls that will burn in Hell for eternity for an accident of birth. It's like saying "everyone living in Texas is condemned to Hell" without bothering to tell them that they ought to move out of Texas. It's not their fault they live there - it's where they were born. It's not Isaac Goldstein's fault he's an Orthodox Jew, it's because he was born to parents who were orthodox Jews. It's not Isaac's fault he has hallucinations that God talks to him because they afflict most of humanity.

    God could have created us without the propensity to hallucinate that God is talking to us. God could give us all personal signs of miracles. God could suspend a mile-high golden cross over the Vatican (or over the Edinburgh Presbytery of the Church of Scotland, or whatever) to let us all know the one true faith. Of course, if God did that then it wouldn't require faith to believe, which is your excuse for why He doesn't. But because he doesn't, billions of people throughout history are condemned to an eternity in Hell for no fault of their own.

    If this is true then God is evil.

  2. When those people of other faiths open their hearts to God, Satan answers because they're following the wrong faith. Mmmmmm, OK. So how do you know that God, rather than Satan, answered you? Because you're following the right faith. How do you know you're following the right faith? Because Satan God told you so. Hmmmm, maybe your faith is strong enough to make you ignore just how absurd your answer is, but I don't believe your answer for a second.

    But let's say you're right. By pure fucking accident you were born to parents who happen to follow the right faith so that when you dial the number they gave you for God it turns out to be the right number and not the number for Satan. Through no fault of their own, billions of people throughout history have been given the wrong number.

    If this is true then God is evil.

  3. There is a God but he accepts all religions. As long as you follow that religion and are a good person, you get into Heaven. What, any religion? How about Satanism? Of course, you'll tell me that it is impossible to be a Satanist and a good person. OK...

    As I've shown here and here it's possible to be a Christian and a bad person and still, according to Christian theology, get into Heaven. Judaism has "Yom Kippur" (the Day of Atonement) in which one must atone (make recompense) for one's sins against one's fellow man (actually, one's fellow Jew). Islam has a similar philosophy: as well as following the religious edicts you must be a good person (actually, the religious edicts say that you must be a good person). Christianity says you can do what the fuck you like as long as you go to confession or get reborn or whatever.

    So if you have to believe in any of the thousands of flavours of the three Abrahamic religions and be a good person, Christians are at a disadvantage. Sure, most Christians strive to be good people anyway, but many go with the "I can fix it in confession on Sunday" or "I can get reborn" or whatever. God does not tell Christians that, unlike Jews and Muslims, their faith leads them to think that they can get to Heaven even if they're bad people when they cannot. Billions of people throughout history left believing that their insurance policy covers something that it doesn't.

    If this is true then God is evil.

    Oh, and what about atheists who are good people? Christians say we cannot be good people yet statistics show that atheists are under-represented in the prison population and the religious (particularly Catholics) are over-represented. Some of that might be down to atheist prisoners falsely proclaiming a religion in the hope it will get them better treatment, but I doubt it.

    In any case, if there are a multitude of conflicting religions all claiming to be the one true religion and I decide that it's impossible to choose one since, at best, only one can be correct and I have thousands to choose from, yet I am a good person, why should I burn in Hell for eternity?

    If this is true then God is evil.

[Amended 11th Oct 2005 to include the following paragraph]

I forgot an alternative explanation. That everyone (who isn't suffering from schizophrenia or multiple personality disorder) who claims God talks to them is lying. There are reports of people who claim to belong to sects that "speak in tongues" who claim that they faked speaking in tongues because it was expected of them and that (they claim) it is probable that so does everyone else in that sect. It doesn't even have to be everyone who deliberately lies about God talking to them: some could be schizophrenic, some could be suffering from MPD, some could be interpreting their own inner thoughts as words from God and the majority could be lying about it because they want to conform to the expectations of their community. But I'm a charitable person, so I'm going to assume that they're all totally honest and none of them are saying the tooth fairy God talks to them because they feel it is expected of them.

Conclusion: if God really works the way any of the thousands of Abrahamic religions say He works, then God is evil.

Now for an end-note for those who wondered why I stressed that religion is not inherited but behaves like an infection. Richard Dawkins pointed out in his book The Extended Phenotype (warning, unlike most of Dawkins' books this one is heavy reading if you're not scientifically-inclined) is that the difference between a parasite/disease (a life-form in your body that does you harm) and a symbiont (a life-form in your body that does you good) is the mechanism by which they infect others. Something which can only be passed on at birth has to be symbiotic because only if your offspring do well can it do well. Something which can be passed on at any time is a parasite because you can pass it to people you meet as well as your offspring: it doesn't care if you or your offspring do well as long as you manage to live long enough to pass it on to somebody else.

Both parasite/disease and symbiont, because they are inside your body, can exert control over your body. The symbiont "wants" (to those who would say I'm being teleological, this is a short-hand for saying that symbionts which evolve with these objectives do better than those which do not have those objectives) you to survive to have children and for your children to do well. The parasite/disease doesn't care as long as you survive long enough to infect at least one other person.

Take rabies. It is concentrated in saliva. In the early stages, it makes infected animals lick their immediate contacts more than usual, thus making it more likely to spread. In the later stages, after all the immediate contacts have been infected, it makes infected animals wander far from home, thus making it more likely to encounter new targets. And in those later stages it makes the infected animal more likely to attack those new targets (by biting them). Rabies exerts a major influence upon behaviour patterns and that influence is all in favour of spreading rabies at the cost of the infected individual.

There are many other examples of symbiont and parasite/disease induced behaviour in Dawkins' Extended Phenotype. And they all show that if the spread is purely congenital (inherited or during the birth process) then the result is a symbiont (good), but if there is a significant spread by contagion then the result is almost always harmful.

I said earlier that religion is not inherited (though from a superficial analysis it might appear to be so) but is in fact a contagion. Since religion never can be inherited, the chances of it ever, on average, benefitting humanity are so close to zero you can forget about it ever happening. Which means that even if you say "Well, there may not be a God or God might even be evil but religion is a benefit to humanity" you are talking bullshit. Religion is a contagious infection that can never do anything but harm.


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