“Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?”
Everybody was celebrating something or other. For some reason, the streets were littered with the debris of drunken revelry, and the air resounded with triumphant cheers, tribal chants and good humoured singing. What cause for this revelry I cannot now remember. The year was 1981, and the date almost certainly May 14th. I remember all day long the BBC had been broadcasting news concerning the attempted assassination of Pope Jean-Paul II the previous afternoon. Every hour, on the hour, the Queen and the Archbishop of Canterbury had expressed their shock and deep sympathy for the Pope and his followers, and Vatican Radio had appealed to the world to pray for his survival.
It has always amazed and astonished me that, in times of such tragedy, when some poor unfortunate soul falls victim to the extremes of violence, disease or accident, the world prays to some or other God, prays that He may intervene and spare that life. It has always amazed and astonished me that any theist at all could believe such a God exists. Is it not abundantly clear that any omniscient, omnipotent and omnibenevolent being would, and what’s more could, never have allowed each particular adversity to have happened in the first place?
These delusional fatalists would rather ignore the paradox and contradiction in such beliefs than give credence to the intelligence through evolution of man. They would rather clasp their hands together, kneel and pray in blind faith than accept that, through insight and investigation, the human mind can achieve the essential scientific breakthroughs for the understanding of our intricate anatomy. They would rather cross fingers and hearts than acknowledge that it is because of the expertise of men of science, doctors and surgeons have the ability to perform the necessary treatments required to save these patients and not have to rely on the begged benevolence of an immortal superbeing.
I was alone at my desk in a modest apartment overlooking the Seven Sisters road in North London. The noise of the euphoric crowd beneath my window made it impossible for me to concentrate on my work and so I decided instead to read and reread a rather nasty indictment, by the then Bishop of Walthamstow, of my latest work, The Sins of God. My book had caused outrage among the Christian brotherhood, as well as great damnation from all corners of the multi-fractured Christian church. Even Pope Jean-Paul II, before the previous day’s attempt on his life, had commented on its blasphemous content, and the Vatican had publicly condemned it as heretical. The Bishop of Walthamstow, rather vehemently, concurred. My book inferred basically that, because of the problem of evil, God either did not exist, (my preferred conclusion), or that God is in fact, inherently evil. In itself not original thinking I know, but I went on to theorise on God’s place in today‘s society, the paradox of God in philosophy, his necessary invention in the psychology of man, and his unnecessity and irrelevance in the world of science.
A biblical God, I summarised, was not only evil, but a megalomaniacal bully. He has made himself judge, jury and executioner over the whole human race. His demands, commands and retributions are merciless. I accused God of being a racist, an elitist, a supremacist, a tyrant, and a homophobic sexist who displays tendencies of latent homosexuality, an accusation that had, most of all, angered America’s obese Bible belt. His advocation of corporal punishment, of the mutilation of certain sinners, of the chastisement of unruly children and of his subjection of women as second class citizens, I pointed out, being proof of his disassociation with modern thinking and ideals.
In my chapters concerning a philosophical God, I concluded that God was a necessary invention made real by man’s desperate need to afford purpose to life and to validate his own ethics on law and justice.
Without a God, I argued, how could any man decide or justify what is right or wrong? How could any man understand what merits a good or evil act? Whose ethics and morality, whose principles and laws do we judge ourselves by, if not those delivered by some divine being? How, in a godless existence, can an ordinary mortal be judge and jury over another? What makes one man a superior being to another, that he may pass laws on another and have the supreme power to implement them? Does he not then set himself above other men and become himself a god, a being that is necessarily both evil and good?
Voltaire once said that if God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him. Indeed it is almost certain that humankind cannot justify itself without the existence and instruction of a god. Therefore, whether God exists or is an invention made real by man’s fear and imagination, he is a necessary evil. If God exists, we become subjective to his will. If God does not exist, we need to invent him to subjugate our own selves. Ironically, man’s need for judgement, forgiveness and divine redemption, is only required if God does not exist.
In psychology, if God exists, his existence absolves us of any political or psychological blame. His existence necessarily negates human liberty, the freedom of will, and the freedom of self, which results in the enslavement of humankind. We become pre-programmed automatons designed to live by Gods instruction, and punished with death and eternal suffering should we dare break free of that programme. Psychologically, God’s existence releases us from the shackles of guilt.
I also commented on the premise that we are all born sinners and on how that principle is an example of a reductio ad absurdum argument, that is, a form of argument in which a proposition is disproven by following its implications logically to its absurd conclusion. On the one hand, if we are born sinners through God’s design, then our sins are not our own, but have been given to us by God. If sin has been pre-planted in every ‘soul’ before birth, then our sin-ness cannot possibly be a fault of our own. On the other hand, if God created us with free will, without the a priori burden of sin, then any sin we thenceforth commit can only be perpetrated a posteriori, implying that we cannot therefore have been born sinners and furthermore, the act itself is only possible because God allowed evil to exist in the first place. God being necessarily omnipotent logically absolves man of any blame.
Of course if God does not exist then life becomes meaningless and without reason or direction. We have been plunged into the dark abyss of existence, this something that suddenly appears between the two extremes of nothingness, and left to struggle through, whatever life is, laden with the unbearable knowledge that whatever we do, whatever we achieve, whether we live a good, bad or wasteful life, whether we live by altruism or by selfishness, we are all rewarded the same, with the ultimate prize of death.
In this instance, a psychological God becomes a necessary invention to protect us from apathy, angst, paranoia, loneliness, the sense of abandonment, self-doubt, worthlessness and despair. If life is proven meaningless then, as Camus pointed out, we are forced to ask ourselves is life worth living at all? The realisation that life is not worth living would condemn humankind to all kind of negative emotion that could lead us into either the moral dilemma of mass suicide or into disunity, anarchy, civil war and the ultimate degeneration of our species.
In science, God has become virtually obsolete. We have invented machines that can think, solve problems and make decisions far better than any human. In time, between the limitless capabilities of computers and the relentless investigation of science, to coin a phrase, anything God can do, we will be able to do better.
Another argument against the existence of God, and the belief we were created by an omnipotent God, is that humankind is far from perfect, physically, mentally and morally. Let’s face it, if Hamleys of London bought a batch of the latest toys from Tokyo, robots that could talk, walk, think, converse and carry out everyday tasks, and they arrived some with no limbs, some blind, some unable to speak, some unable to walk and some with a damaged cerebral chip, they would be returned immediately as rejects!
In the study of genetics and molecular biology, the Human Genome Project has successfully identified and mapped the approximately 20,000-25,000 genes of the human genome and determined the sequence of chemical base pairs which make up DNA, the nucleic acid which contains the genetic instructions used in the development and functioning of almost all known living organisms. They have isolated God’s own creative clay! This knowledge could be limitless in the battle to eradicate disease and disability and eventually in our own potential to create, repair and prolong life, perhaps even to the point of immortality. Immortality an attribute God rather selfishly omitted when He created us in His own image! Leaving aside the moral and ethical dilemmas involved in human cloning, its probability will prove, once and for all, that life can be created without the magic of God’s omnipotent wand!
Our advancement in the science of cosmology too, has shown us that there was a beginning to the universe. The so-called ‘Big Bang’ was created by a physical singularity that gave birth to all of time, space, energy and matter, in fact everything that exists. Images taken by the Hubble telescope have proven beyond all doubt that Earth is but an insignificant, miniscule piece of that godless jigsaw. We understand that the Sun has a limited life expectancy, that towards its end it will expand into a red giant and then slowly cool as a white dwarf. Even if Earth survives any intermediary disaster, either as a result of religious or politically motivated war, or cosmic or climatic catastrophe, it will one day be engulfed by the expanding phase of the Sun or laid barren and lifeless as the solar winds strip the atmosphere back to nothing. If the human race is to succeed and survive, one day we must leave this planet and seek out a new home somewhere within the endless extremities of space. The God Created Life on Earth Brigade will have to concede defeat. Already such a belief is diseased and dying. After Darwin founded his theory of evolution on the island that time forgot, the future discovery of life on another planet will hammer home the final nail in God’s coffin…