Thursday, December 20, 2007

God is really NOT an evil SOB

[DB: Effective immediately, any contributor who does not sign his/her post will be dismissed at my discretion.

[NOTE: Enjoy this, my more or less final word about why I do not believe in divine reward and punishment. I will be away this weekend, and wish everyone a good Shabbos. Maybe I'll return to some nice posts about the December dilemma.]
"OWWW!! Daddy, why are you beating me?!!"

"Because you were disrespectful to your teacher last year and didn't do your homework the year before that. I told your brother to tell you that if you didn't behave yourself I was going to beat you!! You were warned!!"

Now what would you think of that style of parenting? I think I'd at least call Child Protective Services, if not the police.

How a bout a boss who uses the "ignore-ignore -- slap-slap" management style?

What would you think about such people?

"Evil SOB" might be a reasonable label to consider.

Alas, all too many DB commentators are having the vapors because they allege I posted that God was an evil SOB. That's not strictly correct. What I posted was:

If the concept of reward and punishment in Olam Haba is true, it's prima facie evidence that God is an evil nasty SOB who doesn't deserve to be worshiped.

God forbid that I should consider God to be an evil SOB who doesn't deserve to be worshiped. My target was not God, but rather the concept of Olam Haba as reward and punishment.

I don't care this concept is one of Rambam's 13 "ikkarim." The fact that Rambam included it is a negative mark against the Rambam's grasp of wisdom, not any sort of evidence that the principle is from God. Because a God who doles out reward and punishment in a hypothetical afterlife is an abusive God. I can see the point of following the rules of a king of flesh and blood because the king makes the rewards and punishments clear. We can see the prisons (I drive by one on a regular basis). We can talk to people who have been punished and learn of their experiences. We can see the people who are rewarded by the king for their good behavior.

But none of this happens with our interactions with God. God, in fact, is silent, except in our imaginations and, of course, in the self-serving religious leaders who put words in God's mouth. It's very convenient that all this reward and punishment happen in a supposed afterlife, which none of us can access without having to irrevocably die first. So we hear of no first-hand accounts of gehenna or Gan Eden, you think that chazal who wrote the accounts in the Talmud ever actually experienced it? What reasonable God would expect us to put up with the burdensome commandments that our rabbis claim came from Him or Her? The only reward and punishment come from people who have decided on their own to do God's job. Behave yourself and you have what might be a nurturing community. Break the community norms, and you get threatening phone calls and your tires slashed. So yes, there's reward and punishment. But not from God. And a God that would condone that sort of abuse would be truly and evil SOB not worth worshiping.

But if I'm going to worship a God, why would I want to worship such an evil SOB? And I would like to worship God, I find it comforting, etc., and absolute atheism as much silly dogmatism as the blind theocratic faith. Thus, the only way I can reason that God is NOT an evil SOB is by rejecting the principle of divine reward and punishment. So maybe God is evil, but I sure hope and pray not.


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