Wednesday, February 10, 2016

The Worship Fallacy

The Basics: If god exists as an entity, there is no productive reason to continue to worship it.

In recent years, people of faith have gotten a bad name and yet, they have managed to rally around their least positive traits to form a community and power block that holds much of the United States and its public policy hostage. The most extreme evangelical movements have become the loudest voices of the faithful and their disdain for scientific literacy is both astonishing and, as a matter of legislation and governance, destructive to the United States. While heralding the awesomeness of a divine power, people of faith have reduced sophisticated arguments to unfortunate sound bytes: when faced with reason and logic, the explanation of "I have faith" it treated as a legitimate and convincing counterargument. Faith, alas, does not create truth.

The Evangelical Christian movement and the Muslim extremist have much in common and their belief in an supreme diety is chief among them. It is the rare person of faith who questions god's most basic tactic for insuring its godhood: the Biblical god declares itself to be the most powerful, the one and only god . . . despite there being other gods in The Bible. Indeed, people in the Bible worship other gods and the Biblical god uses its followers to wipe them out and all those followers have to go on is faith that their god is telling the truth. The mistake such followers make is in believing - in having unlimited faith - and in neglecting the reality of their situation: if their god was all-powerful, it would not need the followers to do its bidding. Instead, the biblical god became powerful because the followers put it in power. In other words, it was good spin that god declared itself to be the one and only and the most powerful, then had followers who would go out and eliminate the competition. In modern politics, the same tactic is used today: when you want your candidate to seem inevitable, you use your spin staff to start referring to them in the role you want them to have. So, for example, when questions of electibility come up, you'll hear answers like "As President, Trump would have the authority to . . ." or "(emphasis on title) President Trump would not treat World Leader X with kid gloves."

Despite the illogic of reducing everything to matters of faith, faith in the Judeo-Christian-Muslim god is based on three very logical principles. The reason people of faith believe in their particular god are:
1. God is good.
2. God is all-powerful.
and 3. God is interventionist.

These principles might seem reductive, but they are at the core of the faith that leads people to tithe, spend time praying and act as activists to promote a public policy that is destructive to anyone outside their narrow vision of faith. And, if true, those principles would not be bad. Belief that god is good is a decent one; people of faith want to believe they are following someone's teachings that are moral and right, as opposed to destructive. Belief that God is all-powerful is important because it allows believers to cling to ideas and answer the tough questions of existence - the answer is never "I don't know," it's "God did it." And the idea that god gets involved is essential; people of faith believe that god and its minions work among humanity to influence everything from daily events to social movements. The principles of faith underlie all of the major institutions of faith and they are the reason those institutions have managed to grow and seize ever more power in the world.

They are also demonstrably false.

People of faith cling to the three bedrock beliefs of their god, despite all logic and intelligence. The greatest extremists will fall back upon the tired chestnut of "it's all part of god's inscrutable plan." The problem that people of faith will encounter with even minimal scrutiny is that the fallbacks of "god's plan" and "faith justifies itself" are that they work contrary to the three fundamental beliefs, not in concert with them. The institutions that prey upon faith use their followers to gain and maintain power, not to actually illustrate or celebrate their beliefs. People who pray to the Judeo-Christian-Muslim god and work to raise its influence on Earth are doing so because they deny that the three bedrock, logical, beliefs that are the cornerstones of their faith are demonstrably false. To wit:

1. God is not good. In The Bible, God's first, most important commandment is one that insures its own power. Put god above all others. This is a commitment to servitude and it is placed in the pantheon of god's rules as more important even than "love thy neighbor." Sure, love is important, but more important than that is god's all-powerful nature and your subservience to it. It's the same thing abusive parents say to their children to maintain dominance and control. A god that is good would not create rules, then ask its followers to break them. "Thou shalt not kill" is a pretty important commandment, yet Evangelicals happily find loopholes. While some of that can be reduced to human error - Pope Urban X declared that what god meant was Christians shouldn't kill other Christians in order to raise a military to fight the Crusades - any god that demands fealty and murder above acceptance, love, and following the rules that allow believers to define the divine as "good" is not good. Fringe religions that practice things like child sacrifice, bloodletting, and openly declare they are not good have more honesty to their god than one who says it is good, but then breaks its own rules to insure power over its believers. And, in even simpler terms, if god had a plan and suffering exists in the world, where even god's devout believers are challenged, harmed and/or diminished, god's plan is not good. "Good things might come to those who wait," but if god is inherently good, there is no real virtue in forcing people to wait for evidence of that goodness. What merit is there in starvation, fear and the existence of child molesters from a god that is good? [As an aside, people of faith need to consider the following about their myths - the concept of heaven (delayed gratification) is an entirely relative one. If you believe that this life is a predecessor to a realm where you will have eternal bliss if only you believe in god and follow his commandments, consider how relative bliss is. Your idea of heaven might be one where you are reunited with all of your dead loved ones, where you are free to roam in the sunlight and bask in god's love for eternity; for a child molester, heaven would be unlimited access to minors to fondle and rape without fear, judgement or repercussions for the same eternity. According to Judeo-Christian-Muslim institutions fealty to god and devout following of god's rules would net both you and the child molester your versions of heaven - does that truly sound like a good god?]

2. God is not all-powerful. Tied very closely to the existence of evil in the world is the idea that god is not all-powerful. If god is inherently good, then an all-powerful being would have no problem eliminating or regulating any being under its dominion. So, for those who fall back on "evil exists in the world because the devil brought it" can only believe that because the devil is either on par with god's power or god lets the devil get away with it. If "the devil made me do it," it was because god either did not or could not intervene. For people of faith who believe in free will, the idea of an all-powerful god is even more problematic. An all-powerful god has the ability to eliminate temptation, stop the bullet from killing you and stop the devil from whispering in your ear. An all-powerful god has the ability to right your biochemistry so your schizophrenia goes away (what merit is there in mental illness for a benevolent, all-powerful god?), stop the flood from washing away your house and make the rain fall on the seeds in the desert to raise crops to feed people. God does not do these things and people suffer, natural disasters occur and warlords rise up to enslave populations.

3. God is not an interventionist. Let's presume, for a moment, that my arguments are wrong. People of faith bristle and deny that their god is not good and not all-powerful. They can even trot out the old trope, "how do you know, have you met him?" And therein lies the problem. Let's say everything on Earth was created by an all-powerful, benevolent deity who loved humanity above all else. Where is that god now? The deists - who are basically atheists who have yet to commit - believe that god created the Earth and then moved on to bigger and better things. The net result is the same, though. If god is good and all-powerful, there is no virtue to that god if it does not exercise that power to advance its goodness. I can say that I am doing a good thing by robbing a bank and shooting anyone in my way, but the actions would seem to indicate the opposite to the majority of people witnessing them. Proof of god's benevolence and omnipotence is lacking in the world today. Evil exists, those with power dominate vast populations and suffering is rampant. If god is good and all-powerful, it sees no reason to actively fix the problems of the world it created. A god that does not intervene to save its followers from harm is not demonstrably good or all-powerful. If god wanted to save its follower from getting shot, but could not because it was distracted elsewhere, it is not all-powerful. If god let a child die from torture to teach a lesson to its followers, it is not inherently good. But if the world exists without god actively influencing key elements, the net result is the same.

It is pointless to waste time, energy, and faith on worship, prayer, or advocacy for the Judeo-Christian-Muslim god. God is not coming to save you, your house, your small business, or any of the things you care about; there are billions of people and god either does not care, is not good or is powerless to save them all or influence the world to fix its problems. Faith in god will not save us or our world; actions of kindness and advocacy toward a better future will. If the next time a person of faith was inclined to pray, they instead found someone who was suffering and committed to help them through their tough time, the results would be more immediately evident than what comes after the faithful spend time on their knees.

For other social or political articles, please check out:
Why Bernie Sanders Will Be The Next President Of The United States Of America
Why We Should Stop The Search For The "Gay Gene"
Parents, It's Not The World You Remember! (But It Is The One You Helped To Create!)

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© 2016 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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