Admittedly, Silence is Not the Same as Condoning Actions
Some people feel a need to speak out when they hear something that offends them. Hearing someone extoll the benefits of physical punishment meted out to children or a spouse does not compel me to intervene the same way as seeing someone beating another in front of me would. (Of course, when I was young and was out with my Mom, a “trip to the bathroom” did not mean I was in for any urinary relief…) I can’t think of any words worth fighting over, and I have been called a lot of very imaginative things over the years. I can’t think of any recent major wars over insults, at least since some of us distanced ourselves from absolute monarchies, although North Korea might get upset if you mentioned that the current leader probably has wedding tackle fit for a stunted Pekinese…
But for Me, Some Things Just Have to be Challenged
So what is it that grinds me like nothing else? It will sound petty, and it is. The first is when people thank their god for minor things, like finding their car keys (I have actually had this one posted to me on Facebook). God will alter physical reality (if god is not doing this, then there is no reason to thank him) just for little old you, because you are such a very, very nice and god-fearing (remember this part for later) person.
We have all seen it. The American high school, college or professional athlete who following a victory over a cross-town rival thanks “god” for the victory. The religious leader who thanks her god for the clement weather for the annual church picnic. The adolescent male who thanks god that his mom didn’t find the porn on his computer. Arrrrrggggggggggghhhhhhhhhhh! If you spew this sort of drivel in front of me, expect a response.
Why does this bug me? Let’s accept that the believer’s world view is right (I never argue whether there is or is not a god, I always start from the believer’s premise that there is one (or more) and that hers is the right one), and that some god is up “there” somewhere hearing all these prayers and deciding which ones to answer. All I can say is, what a total undeniable stinking turd of a god.
Have you ever been to an orphanage? Kids live their whole childhood lives there, praying every day for someone to come and take them away. To love them and to give them a chance at a good life. How about people subject to conditions of starvation or malnutrition? Disease? Malformation? Mental illness? The sort of grinding daily poverty that still grips more than 1 billion people on this planet. No one’s “God” has time for their prayers, but he/she/it can give the local cricket team a victory in a sports game, help you find your car keys, or give you nice weather for your wedding?
Dean to God, Dean to God: “Do you have your priorities right, you sick twisted sadistic anthropomorphic bit of quantum reality? Hello? Any rejoinder?” Maybe God doesn’t speak English or listen to atheists, I don’t know but I didn’t get a response with God’s side of the story.
When you bring up these sickening dichotomies (I am particularly fond of sending those thankful for God’s kindness to them or their sports team a picture of a starving child and asking where is God for the child?), the religious often fall back on “God’s mysterious ways” or “God knows who is deserving” or even “you shouldn’t question God’s actions.” As a famous AR Member might say, “Bollocks!” But you can tell they are uncomfortable and hopefully some of them start to think about what they are saying when you challenge them. Maybe some of the self-congratulatory religious joy they feel at some meaningless event is mitigated by a feeling of discomfort over their own lack of compassion for the unfortunate. I would like to think that this is the case. And even if it’s not, I won’t stop rubbing their face in the cesspit of reality.
God is the World’s First True Terrorist, so Say “Thank You” or You Might be Next
The other case that unhinges me is when people thank god for not being as evil as he could have been. Like recently in the Philippines (I was there for Super Typhoon Haiyan and its aftermath and have one friend still looking for her son-in-law) you hear the news media, politicians and even people who were harmed by the typhoon praising God’s mercy and compassion for not killing more or for saving them personally. The newscaster who says: “it’s a miracle more people weren’t killed.” I have not heard one voice in the wilderness crying out that god is responsible for the destruction and deaths of over 5,000 innocent men, women and children. It’s not on the scale of the 2004 Christmas Tsunami (which mostly killed non-Christians, as many American Christian evangelicals noted with great glee and delight at the time), but the typhoon did hit the only Christian nation in Asia.
If someone came to your house, killed half your family in a terrifying and painful manner, destroyed your house and all your possessions, leveled your coconut farm, annihilated your place of work, and left you and your remaining family members struggling for survival without adequate shelter, food, medicines or palatable water, would you thank them for not killing you? Think about it.
You might just do this. But not because you loved the person who just ruined your life and killed your loved ones. Oh no indeed, it would be because you feared them and that they might just kill the rest of your family too. The victims are abject and utterly unable to defend themselves, so the only hope open to them is to fawn on their destroyer and crave his mercy. It reminds me of the initiation scene in the American movie “Animal House” where an elite fraternity is initiating its new members by spanking their bottoms with a wooden paddle and after each satisfying “smack” on the buttocks the initiates are supposed to reply “Thank you sir, may I have another”. But that was a comedy, and this is reality with real dead, sick and injured human beings – who were this “God’s” believers.
When I have heard people say “thank you” to their god for forbearance, I have to speak up. “Why don’t you tell god he is a louse, and if he wants to kill someone there are plenty of corrupt politicians, murders, swindlers and other scum that he could murder. Why brutally kill innocents, especially children? That is not an indication of a just god, of a loving god, or even of a sane god. It is an indication of a megalomaniacal, murderous, psychopath who treats his creation and his believers the same way Caligula, Ivan the Terrible, Mao, Stalin, Pol Pot or Hitler and countless other human tyrants did – by making people fear them.”
Of course, if you read the Hebrew Bible, or Wilma Ann Bailey’s “You Shall Not Kill or You Shall Not Murder?: The Assault on a Biblical Text”, or the engaging but very depressing read by Steve Wells, “Drunk with Blood” (both available on Amazon.com) you will see that terrorizing people is exactly in keeping with the Hebrew YHWY’s character (and please don’t get me started on Holocaust Theology…). YWHY is a total jerk to friends and foes alike, even if you follow his idiotic and illogical rules (no work on the Sabbath, no fabrics made of more than one fiber, no pork (no bacon? I mean that is just sick), no shell fish lobster or shrimp, don’t masturbate, don’t cut your side locks, don’t lose your virginity (if you’re female), don’t sass your parents (or you get stoned, and not the good kind either), don’t have homosexual sex, don’t tattoo your body, don’t put yeast in burnt offerings to YHWY (he Really hates this one), don’t steal or kill unless you’re doing it to people who don’t believe in YHWY, don’t boil a kid in its mother’s milk (one of the actual ten commandments – look it up if you don’t believe me - Exodus 34:26-28), and the absurd list goes on and on. Ten Commandments? Wrong, it’s hundreds (613 by some count) of unexplained nonsense injunctions. But it all comes down to this: “Do what I say or I’ll harm you, and maybe I’ll harm you anyway.”
I miss the pagans. The Greek, Roman, Babylonian, Celtic, Norse and other Slavonic religions all had heroes who stood up to gods. They usually lost, but they often showed that the human heroes were more moral than the gods, and the stories were read and interpreted this way. There is more morality in Aesop’s Fables than you will ever find in the Hebrew Bible, the Christian New Testament or the Koran. The Hebrew stories, adopted in some form by Christians and Muslims alike, are all about quivering supplicants before a tyrannical master, bereft of any personal dignity and unable to even question the ludicrous rules set by an all-powerful master in the sky. (The exception being Jacob who wrestles with God (I am not sure if the translation of this reference is to YHWH or El, or even something else) Genesis 32:22-32. All I can say is that a god who can’t beat a mortal in a night long wrestling match must be a bit of a wimp. Many Jewish and Christian apologists ignore the plain language of the text and claim that the entity Jacob is wrestling is really an angel (still a wimp and why no description of wings) or some other minion of god.)
Either god is all powerful and he decided to destroy the livelihood of tens of thousands of people and kill over 5,000 of his believers for no discernable reason other than his pernicious immorality, in which case he is a murdering bastard right in keeping with his description in the Hebrew Bible, or he is not in control of the weather and his intervention did indeed save some people and maybe he is just some local Canaanite goat herders’ god of very limited power who happened to get mentioned a lot by people keen to invent religions (which can also be supported by the Hebrew Bible, as YHWY is frequently thwarted by things like iron chariots, and the Philistines who just don’t ever seem to be vanquished, etc.). Think about it. If he is all powerful then either he wanted you dead, or he didn’t. In the best moral case scenario, the weather is more powerful than YHWY, but he can do some minor stuff around the edges, like saving some people from drowning or dying from a water born contagion in the aftermath. Would you call an entity like that “god”? It would clearly not be all-powerful and it’s closer to the Catholic conception of a Saint, who saves you from the wrath of an infuriated powerful god.
And in Conclusion?
So whether it’s in person, or on the internet, or in a missive (yes, I still get a lot of paper mail and write often myself) I stop and point out that god has no business giving someone meaningless assistance when it is denied to so many who are in urgent need.
After all, what sort of god helps a millionaire American football player throw a touchdown and at the same time denies a child’s plea for relief from cancer? One with a warped personality and less morals than the vast majority of humanity, that’s the sort of god who would do this. “Sorry, I couldn’t save the school bus from falling into the ravine, but I did give the local baseball team victory over its cross-town rivals.” How low are our expectations of god, if this is the case?
And when it comes to thanking god for his forbearance in not being as bad to you as he could have been? I never tell them, “your god doesn’t exist”, I just try to show them what a total and absolutely repugnant bastard he would be if he did; and it’s not hard to do.