Excuses Religious People Give for God’s Awful Behavior November 18, 2009

Excuses Religious People Give for God’s Awful Behavior

August Berkshire is the atheist from Minnesota who wrote the really popular list of 34 Unconvincing Arguments for God, a list of arguments made by Christians which don’t hold a lot of water with atheists. His license plate also reads ATHEIST 🙂

He has just come out with an updated and revised list of The Problem of Evil: The Top 15 Excuses Religious People Give for the Horrible Behavior of their God.

Here’s a brief explanation along with a couple of items from the list:

Here are “The Top 15 Excuses” religious people give in an attempt to explain away the horrible behavior of the all-powerful, all-loving god they believe exists.

(1) Unknown greater good.

God must commit or allow some evil to accomplish an unknown greater good.

But doesn’t that limit God’s knowledge and power? Doesn’t that say that God couldn’t think of a better way to accomplish his goals other than by torturing innocent people? Until this “greater good” is revealed to us, we are not obliged to accept this argument.

(5) God is testing our faith.

Evil is God’s way of testing our faith, like Job was tested in the Old Testament.

If this is true, what sense does it make to impose a “loyalty test” on an infant who dies from disease or natural disaster?

For those who want a pamphlet-y version for easy distribution, August has made a PDF trifold version available as well!


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  • Here are some other useful handouts and resources, in case you want to try to be an atheist evangelist.

    http://www.truth-saves.com/Share_the_Truth.php

  • These should be handed out along side Ray Comfort’s trashing of Darwin’s On The Origin of Species.

    For anyone who hasn’t seen, they have decided to hand them out today instead of tomorrow. Check around your campus for these buffoons

  • muggle

    I’ve got to print this out. Thanks. These kinds of things are always useful to have on hand for when fundy types bother you. I’ve used the I’ll read your pamphlet if you’ll read mine in the past.

    Thanks for mentioning Job. I never was comfortable with that one either. There’s so much in the buybull I never was comfortable with.

    My daughter and I were talking about my escape from childhood indoctrination as she drove me to work this morning and I said something about it taking me 10 years and to my surprise, she asked in surprise, “Only 10? I thought it took much longer than that!” I replied, “Well, 10 from when I really started looking at everything but I guess I always did have questions. All those questions I told you I used to pester your grandmother with.”

    I realized something then, she was counting when I was little kid and used to asked disturbing questions about what I was being taught in Sunday school, like why did “God” drown the little babies who hadn’t sinned yet and all the animals except the ones on the ark? They didn’t do nothing.” And asking in horror if she’d sacrifice her kid if “God” asked her to.

    Job was another one that always bothered me. Here’s this extremely devout man who “God” just has to test and take everything from. It always seemed sick to me.

    My daughter made me realize something this morning that I hadn’t really thought about before because, while I did question, I blindly believed what I was taught. But, just asking the questions, from when I was quite small, I was bound to discard the whole thing when I got old enough to see that the answers to those questions only led one way; that just by asking them, I was already a skeptic. Even when I was a Christian.

    You do have to wonder how many remain with the religion they were raised with just because they have asking the questions peer-pressured out of them. Frankly, 100% or close to it, wouldn’t surprise me. “God” just doesn’t stand up to questions or close scrutiny.

  • nomad

    “God must commit or allow some evil to accomplish an unknown greater good.”

    That’s got to be the worst. What mysterious greater good? No one knows. And yet this mysterious unknown greater good can be used to justify any horror committed by God or his followers. For this mysterious unidentifiable greater good, good people will do despicable things. Evil becomes, by this definition, good.

  • “God must commit or allow some evil to accomplish an unknown greater good.”

    Yeah, and when you call a Christian on that and say, ‘Well, doesn’t it bother you at all that he ‘chooses’ do work that way?’ a lot of times they will admit to that and say something along the lines of, ‘I plan on asking him about that when I see him [face to face, in heaven].’ (I actually have heard that response myself, btw) Ok, but what makes anyone sure God would tell them then since he hasn’t seen fit to tell any of us now or at any time throughout humanity why he does shit like that?
    Just my two cents.

  • Brian E

    Thanks Hemant; I was looking for this guy’s list the other day and I couldn’t remember where it came from. Got ’em in my reader now!

  • Guest Pest

    That is a great list and I printed a few copies. There’s only a couple of small things I would have changed. The first is at #3: “Each of us has some ancestor who was a murderer.” I don’t know that. Shouldn’t that have been, “Each of us may have had some ancestor who was a murderer”?

    The second is at #5, which should have added: Why would an all-knowing god need to test anyone in the first place, having created the person and therefore knowing how they would respond?

  • Thanks for the comments Guest Pest.

    If you think about it, each of us has 2 parents, 4 grandparents, 8 great grandparents, 16 great great grandparents, etc. Thus each of us has thousands of ancestors that could be called human. The odds would be pretty small that one of them wasn’t a murderer.

    It does seem odd that an all-knowing god would have to test our character. Yet we supposedly have free will, so we actually have to display our character before we can be judged – even though god supposedly knows how we will respond.

  • @muggle:
    Your understanding of the Book of Job is flawed. Job was being punished for his sin. It takes a careful reading of the text, and an understanding of the use of metaphor in fiction to suss it out, but it’s there.
    Don’t take it personally, though. I doubt you could find a Christian who understands the book either.

  • @muggle:
    Your understanding of the Book of Job is flawed. Job was being punished for his sin. It takes a careful reading of the text, and an understanding of the use of metaphor in fiction to suss it out, but it’s there.
    Don’t take it personally, though. I doubt you could find a Christian who understands the book either.

  • muggle

    Still fucked up, Paul. Deeply.

  • KD

    The pitfalls of preaching to the choir:

    Unfortunately, these arguments are NOT going to convince any believers, who are going to very easily come up with counter-arguments. For example, to the points above:

    (1) Unknown greater good.
    This does not imply that god is NOT all-powerful, as believers could imply that HUMANS are limited in their understanding, and therefore must experience evil in order to be aware of good.

    (2) God is testing our faith.
    It is an immediate sequitir that in this case god would not be testing the infant’s faith, but rather the infant’s parents’ faith.

    THE POINT IS: That VAST MAJORITY of believers are not going to be convinced by plain logical thinking, that’s what BELIEF is all about.