There are some ideas that may not be factual in any way but which make sense. One can see the logic and reasoning behind them and appreciate why a particular conclusion could be arrived at. But some of the beliefs that the religious hold make me wonder at times whether they have ever given any consideration to those beliefs, or whether it is simply stuff that they mindlessly regurgitate.
When people say things like, “You cannot know how to love if you don’t have a relationship with God” and I attempt to find out their justification for such a statement, all I ever get is a litany of scriptures and clichéd responses, such as, “God is love” and “Christ died for us . . .” blah blah and blah. Other popular ideas are, “God is the one who gives us conscience,” and “There is no objective morality without God.”
If you believe that a man in the sky literally picked up a handful of dirt, said “abracadabra” and turned it into the complex system that is the human body, with a brain, trillions of cells, and no belly button (since Adam was not attached to an umbilical cord) then of course you would have no reason to question that God gave man things like conscience and a sense of morality. But as usual, in order to accept such beliefs, you can only do so on a superficial level, for to do so fully would open a can of worms and force you to make rationalizations and excuses for God. One would have to agree that a perfect God created imperfect humans, or humans which were capable of sin, a host of physical deformities, mental retardation, and capable of giving birth to stillborns. One would have to conclude that God had a wonderful sense of humor when he designed only the hummingbird to fly backwards, made some parrots talk, and carefully gave wings to some birds which don’t fly. He also felt it very necessary to cause the genitals of the male bee to explode when they mate, killing them in the process. By careful design, God also created man-eating lions, crocodiles, and other poisonous animals to kill or feast on human beings.
I know what you’re thinking at this point: “Everything was perfect when God created it. Man’s sin caused everything to change.” Well, the questions still remain: How does something that is created perfect become imperfect? Whose faulty plan and design was it anyway?
The love of God
I would more readily accept the uniqueness of God’s love if only I could see some kind of difference between the love of those who profess to know God and those who don’t. What is so superior about the way in which Christians love? The bible explains love in 1 Corinthians 13:4 – 7 as, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, and it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, and always perseveres.” The God of the Old Testament, on the other hand, is impatient and has anger management issues – both he and his son (remember that notorious incident with the fig tree that Jesus cursed because it refused to bear fruit for him during the off season?). There are enough atrocities in the scriptures to prove that kindness was not God’s forte; he may not have envied other Gods but he was jealous of them; he never forgave Adam and Eve for eating a fruit; he doesn’t trust us, since he watches us 24/7, and not only is he “self-seeking” but egotistic, since his only purpose for creating us and the angels is to worship him. God’s love is not unconditional, since there are certain conditions which must be met in order to receive it, and we have already seen that blaming the entire human race for the predestined actions of two individuals and sacrificing his son as a result is not love. So, where exactly is the superior, ultimate love that only Christians know?
Within the Christian view, it is believed that conscience is an inherent, God-given sense of right and wrong. Yet, it should not be difficult to understand that if a child were to grow up and be left to his or her own devices, that child’s conscience would be impaired or underdeveloped. Someone could grow up thinking that incest is perfectly acceptable, for example, until that person learns otherwise. It makes more sense for me to believe that even though conscience may be biologically determined to some extent it is largely shaped through socialization and via rewards, punishment and shame. Conscience, like morality, is cultural and context specific. Some things that may evoke immense guilt in people from certain cultures, such as masturbation, may be totally normal for others. If God gave us conscience then it certainly is unreliable, inconsistent, and cannot always be trusted. What does one do when, despite all his prayer and fasting, he feels comfortable with money laundering, adultery, beating his wife, or persecuting homosexuals and prostitutes?
What of morality? Is the idea of objective morality even possible? If God, by himself, decides what is right and wrong, and decides that he can do whatever he wants, no matter how horrible, is that being objective? If he says “Thou shalt not kill” and he turns around and gives his servants freedom to kill the innocent and rape virgin women, is that objectivity? That sounds more like tyranny to me. Morality can only be subjective.
Some things which may be wrong in certain instances are necessary in others, this includes murder, lying, incest (how else did Adam and Eve’ children populate the earth?) and taking what does not belong to you. Our sense of right and wrong can only be derived from the need to love and respect others, ourselves, and the environment, and even that is still subjective.