(a revised chapter from: The Sins of God)
Let’s suppose there is a God. Let’s suppose that this God is our divine creator, that he (for the purpose of this treatise I shall use the personal pronoun of ‘he’, with respect to the fact that as God does not exist, ‘he’ could equally not be a ‘she’ or an ‘it‘) is immortal and that among his necessary attributes, he is omnipotent, omniscient and supremely benevolent. Let’s suppose God lives in a wonderland called Heaven and that Heaven is situated outside the known universe, that Heaven is a transcendent paradise which exists beyond the realms of this physical world, the world into which we, as human beings, are born. With God in Heaven, we are led to believe there also resides a host of angels, saints and venerated ancestors. A wondrous and magical story you would think, up there in the cloudcuckoolands of a Tolkein novel but, rather alarmingly, if we ignore the pantheistic beliefs such as Hinduism, as well as Buddhism, traditional Chinese and other indigenous religions and focus just on the three main monotheistic faiths of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, there are roughly three and a half billion people on Earth who actually believe this fairytale. Unfortunately, according to these three thousand five hundred million theists, there is a selection process. In order that one of us mere mortals be allowed the privilege of entrance into this mighty kingdom of Heaven, first we must meet certain criteria, and the criteria necessary is quite astounding. If we take Christianity alone, and concentrate solely on the teachings of the bible, it just about excludes every human being who has ever lived on this planet. According to the bible, Heaven is one Hell of an elitist paradise!
My first problem with Christianity, in particular, is that God has set himself up as judge, jury and executioner over us mere mortals, and in by doing so ignores and contravenes, time and time again, his own morals, ethics, duty and laws. If we must obey his commands then should it not also be essential that God does the same? Should God not set an example, be the paradigm of virtue, or is he above his own jurisdiction? How can we be expected to live our lives as to his disciplines if he himself finds those disciplines irrelevant and arbitrary to his own authority and importance? The autopsic cut of history tells us time and time again that in any civilisation, in any dynasty, kingdom, or politically controlled state in which a tyrannical ruler has decreed a set of laws upon his subjects, yet is seen to blatantly disregard and even flout those ideals himself, there is a distinct lack of respect, reverence and unquestionable loyalty. Such inharmonious societies soon enter into rebellion and civil war and their megalomaniacal leaders are quickly deposed and often assassinated.
Another problem with Christianity, as has been discussed and theorised over many centuries by nearly all the most eminent philosophers, is the problem of evil, whether evil exists, and if so, why does it exist. There have been far too many ideas, suppositions, and bizarre explanations of the problem of evil to start listing and giving defences and counter arguments in this essay. However it is an important stumbling block for theists of all denominations and should not be ignored or discarded.
The problem of evil, to paraphrase Epicurus, is thus:
If a perfectly good god exists, then evil does not. There is evil in the world. Therefore, a perfectly good god does not exist.
I have come to the conclusion that if evil exists then either God does not exist, the attributes of God need to be redefined, or God is inherently evil. Personally, I believe the former, but for the benefit of the three and a half billion monotheists who still ascertain that God does exist, I shall prove in just how many ways an existent God is more evil than you could ever have imagined.
In the following excerpt, I pose the question: Is God an evil alien bodysnatcher?
At first a question which, on the face of it, seems absurd. But wait! Are not approximately one third of the World’s population Christians? Christians who believe in a soul? A soul that is to be judged by God on its separation from the body at death and either, following a lifetime spent in duty and servitude, accepted back into His fold or, failing that, sent hurtling through the fiery pits of Hell to spend out the everafter in eternal suffering?
Muslims too, pretty much agree with their Christian adversaries on the nature of the soul, that the soul too is judged at a day of reckoning. Although, granted, the purpose of the soul in Muslim theology is the pursuit of happiness whereas the Christian soul is burdened with sin, guilt and misery- pleasure not something generally advocated by Christian fundamentalists! Islam, by the way, makes up 16% of the World’s population.
The third of the ‘Big Three’ monotheistic religions, Judaism, of which there are roughly 15 million followers worldwide, also believe in a soul. Divine judgements on the merits and demerits of the Jewish soul again determine whether each shall be allowed to enter the kingdom of God or sent for a period of intense purification to the purgatorial ‘hell’ of Gehenna.
A further 18% of all human beings are Hindu. Hindus believe the soul, (or Atman), is eternal and is passed from body to body, (at the moment of death and the moment of life), according to its karma, only to be freed from this earthly bond at the moment of self-realisation, on the discovery of the true meaning of one’s self.
Adherents of Buddhism believe the human has no material form, that all things are in a constant state of flux, there is no I or me, that when the body dies, the incorporeal mental processes continue and are reborn in a new body. The ultimate goal of the Buddhist soul, as that of the Jains, Hindus and Sikhs, is for the soul to reach the state of nirvana. 6% of the world’s population are Buddhist.
If we add to these the vast number of other ‘lesser’ religions who believe we have a soul and discount all atheists, even those who actually believe in a soul, but not in any omnipotent deity, then incredibly 84% of the world’s population, that’s very nearly 6 billion people, believe in the concept of the soul.
So, is God an evil alien bodysnatcher? Let’s return to that seemingly absurd question and now examine it more closely. Let us scrutinise the soul and try to discover what actually the soul is.
What is a soul?
Socrates, via the writings of Plato, describes the soul as the essence of a person, that which determines how we behave. When the body dies the soul is reborn in subsequent bodies.
The soul, if we are to believe the largest of all the world’s religions, Christianity, as well as the Hindus, is an entity that enters the body at some point between the inception of the foetus and the moment of birth. Neither like to specify the exact moment because of the politically charged, moral dilemma of abortion. In Ancient Greece, from at least the time of Aristotle, and thereon throughout history, it has been generally accepted as 40 days after conception for a male embryo and 90 days for a female embryo, although Cartesian opinion, and to a large part Catholic doctrine, insists the soul enters at exactly the moment of conception. The Jewish and Buddhist faiths are more precise and believe the soul enters the body 40 days after conception. The Muslims believe the ensoulment of a body takes place somewhere between 40 and 120 days after conception.
The soul is believed by most to have been created by God. It is incorporeal, immortal, and exists as a separate entity to the body. It enters at some point before birth and assumes control of sentience and consciousness and leaves the body, in extremis, at the moment of death.
(Here I’d like to interject and comment on the ridiculous notion that has recently grown in popularity, the idea first propounded by Dr Duncan MacDougall in 1901, and used as subject for a Hollywood movie, that the weight of the soul is 21 grams. The soul, being incorporeal can have no weight at all, any weight would suggest that it is in fact corporeal and part of the body, the body which is supposed by Christianity to be a separate entity from the soul. Sadly the world is full of crackpots who would rather believe in supernatural whimsy and fatuous memes than in scientific fact.)
If each of us truly does possess a soul, and this belief is essential in the teachings of Christianity, would that not infer, on the contrary, the soul possesses us? It is the soul that exists before birth and after death, not us. It is the soul that has entered our bodies, not visa versa. The soul therefore becomes nothing more than an alien entity which takes over our human body and usurps and controls its sentience and consciousness. It uses the human body as a host. We are no longer in control of our own minds, our own decisions or our own fate, which leaves us with a bulk of further questions. Without a soul or who or what are we? Are we human or are we an evil alien bodysnatcher? Would we develop intellectually without this invasion? If God died, deserted the human race or simply just ran out of souls, could the human race survive without this divine driving force?
Without the soul, according to Christian dogma, we would be left as soulless automatons with no idea, literally, and no concept, of the world around us. We would be left without any mental attributes. We would possess no database in which to store information, and decision making would be impossible. Without a soul, we would have no memory, no recognition, no attention, no awareness, no thought, no language, no understanding and in fact no consciousness at all. We would have no more intelligence than a single cell amoeba.
So what then is a human body. Is it lifeless without the soul? Can it not function without the soul?
If any of you have seen the film Alien, what difference is there between the parasitic monster depicted in that film and the soul? Furthermore, who allows this invasion to happen, or even instigates this act of defilement? A god who grows and cultivates human bodies so that he may implant or ‘give body to’ his souls? If souls exist therefore, are you not yourself then that alien? For surely if you can speak, think, understand, recognise and remember then, according to the very fundamental teachings of Christianity, as well as most other religions, it must be that you yourself are that soul, the incubus of your own body, the body chosen by God for you, as the soul, to inhabit, at least for the duration of its working life. The body then, by default, becomes merely a mechanical vehicle, with, as we know only too well, a myriad faulty parts; a vehicle that one day will finally break down and be scrapped like a defunct piece of machinery. The driver moves on.
So can you really trust anymore, who or what you truly are?
Here, yet another problem arises, if I am that soul, the soul which is reincarnated inside a new host, why do I have no recollection of my previous lives? Why do I have no stored data, no immediate intelligence nor awareness? What happens in the time between death and rebirth that my soul is wiped clean to begin afresh inside a new host? Is the soul merely a hard-drive, its data deleted and re-booted inside its new casing each time its previous circuitry burns out? Why is it wiped clean with only the a priori curse of sin added. Why is sin, and only sin, added to our database by a supremely benevolent God. One assumption by Christians is that we carry the sins of mankind with us, but why only the sins of mankind? Why not its merits, successes and achievements? I can understand that the corrupted soul of Adolf Hitler has been hurled into hell, but where is that of Mother Theresa? Did that soul get wiped clean, re-booted and have sin reintroduced into its data bank? Or did the soul of Mother Theresa reach nirvana? Oops, the Christians, Jews, and Muslims don’t believe in nirvana, therefore one of us, somewhere in this world, according to them, is the wiped clean, deliberately corrupted soul of Mother Theresa.
Also, if the soul is reborn inside a further body, what part of me spends out all eternity in heaven or hell? Does the soul subdivide? Do we have two souls or one that is partitioned? Absolute nonsense isn’t it!
If anything, belief in the soul takes away the word humanity. Belief in the soul necessarily infers there is nothing human about humankind at all.
Belief in the soul can only mean one thing, that God is evil. Only an evil God would farm humans, implant his alien souls and take control of their minds and bodies for his own entertainment, that he could then punish or reward each in turn, by his own will, the actions of his alien souls. But who exactly is punished? His souls for disobeying his command or us, the body, for allowing that soul to sin? Surely though we are the soul not the body, and the body has no intelligence of its own, and no control over the soul, so we as souls are the sinners. But we are God-made, and God is supremely benevolent and cannot allow sin to exist. So whence cometh evil? O how the paradoxes amass when God is added to any equation!
In Cartesian philosophy, dualism is the idea that the mind is separate from the body. Descartes believed that the mind too, is a separate entity from the brain, the brain, being part of the body, is physical, and the mind, which he identified with a person’s consciousness, self-awareness and intelligence, non-physical.
Without going too deeply into the merits and demerits of dualism, one major problem arises with this theory. The problem is that of brain damage. If a person suffers an attack to the head, maybe as the result of a vicious blow, a road accident or even by disease, the mind too is affected by the damage to the brain. The brain and the mind must necessarily be linked in some capacity for one to affect the other. In fact most neuroscientists will tell you the mind is the brain, or the functioning of the brain that enables, through a complex of cognitive faculties, consciousness, thinking, reasoning, perception and judgement, which are not only characteristics of human beings but also of other life forms.
If you still believe in the soul, and that the soul is a separate entity from the body, and is responsible for the above characteristics essential to human beings, then you must also believe that animals have souls too. By the way, if you doubt that animals have souls, Pope John Paul II, in a statement read out in Rome, 1990, ascertained that ‘also the animals possess a soul and that men must love and feel solidarity with our smaller brethren.’
Having ascertained that animals do have souls, and, if we add to that belief the knowledge that not all humans are equally intelligent, it begs the question, why not? Why are individual humans more or less intelligent than each other? and why then are animals of a lesser intelligence altogether, running down the scale to the lowest form of life? Why did God create inferior souls?
Of course those of us that accept the facts of evolution understand the natural answer to this theological problem. (I am often asked by theists and all kind of creationist- do you believe in evolution? To which my answer is always: No, I don’t believe in evolution, evolution is a fact!)
Belief in God, at all levels, and in all ways, runs into so many unanswerable questions that each answer gets more ridiculous by its own need to prove God’s existence. In the end, after every possible line of defence has reached its extreme terminus of absurdity, we hear time and time again that most ludicrous of all theodicies: God moves in mysterious ways. Moves in mysterious ways! If God exists at all, he, she or it is undoubtedly a megalomaniacal monster!
The placement of the soul by God in the human embryo, at some point after conception and before birth, wiped clean of its past life, with only the corrupt programme of sin added a priori, and ‘lesser’ or ‘inferior’ souls, presumably without the prerequisite addition of sin, (I’ve never heard the statement, all rabbits are born sinners!), in varying degrees of capacity, and in descending order of intelligence, in the embryos of all life forms, brings about yet another paradox in the existence of God himself.
As God is necessarily omniscient, omnipotent and supremely benevolent, the presence of the soul as a separate entity suggests that God, once again, either does not exist, has not the necessary attributes of a God, or is inherently evil.
The soul, once placed in its host, becomes God’s omniscience, his all-seeing eye, and in part becomes his omnipotence. His omnipotence in the guise of a puppet-master who has omnipotence over his puppets, for once the soul assumes control of its human body, the soul becomes the apparatus through which the puppet-master, God, asserts his omnipotence. However, having accepted the soul exists, the problem of evil rears its ugly head once again, and once again God’s quality of supreme benevolence fails.
There are too many human beings alive or who have lived who, by the very fundamental teachings of Christian morality, are classed as evil. Too many atrocities, war-crimes, genocides, murders, acts of brutality not, if we believe in the soul, perpetrated by humankind, but by the ‘heavenly’ souls that control us. If the soul is God-made, why would god include evil in its possibilities and limitations? Does that not infer that God himself possesses the evil gene and therefore, does that not then endorse the above premise, the premise that runs as a central theme throughout The Sins of God, that God either does not exist, does not have the necessary attributes to be a God, or is in fact inherently evil? If God sees evil, and God has the power to stop evil, being supremely benevolent, why does he allow evil to exist?
Then we come to the problem of suicide. Why would a soul choose to end its own life? In his philosophical study of absurdism, The Myth of Sisyphus, Camus said: “There is only one really serious philosophical problem, and that is suicide.” but suicide here becomes a theological problem. If the soul knows that suicide will result in its own damnation, and we, either as human being or as evil alien bodysnatching soul, have been instructed of this punishment, why would it remove itself from the eternal cycle of reincarnation? Why choose suicide as an option of escape, knowing full well that only an eternity of suffering awaits? Of course, one conclusion jumps readily to mind, the eternal cycle of the soul, inexorably stuck inside the egotistical game of God, is far more torturous and distressing than an everafter spent in the eternal fires of hell.
If we take the metaphor of God as a fisherman and the fish his souls, and each soul has a choice of two ponds in which to swim; the first being the pond in which God continually catches his fish, unhooks them, throws them back into that pond, only to watch them swim within the limits of that pond, then to once again, and again and again throughout eternity, re-catch each fish and repeat the same process; the second pond being full of piranhas, demons of the deep, that would devour each soul the moment it dared leave the confines of the first pond; eventually, given the choice, all fish would eventually crack from the torment of repetition and swim openly, and quite willingly, into the jaws of death.
Surely if an eternal God exists, the eternal soul exists, and each soul is doomed to live out that eternity without escape, then suicide is the most appealing of all options.
In summary, if you believe in the soul, that the soul is independent of the body and is a creation of God, and this belief is essential to 84% of the world’s population, then surely, it is not absurd to ask the question, is God an evil alien bodysnatcher? In fact, I put it to you, on this evidence, surely, if God exists, God must be.