10 December 2017

God and the Bogey Man

Most people don't understand God. The idea of God within the minds of most people is some super version of the ego (not Freud's super-ego, just the regular ego super-sized). They project their own values onto God, judging reality based on their own preferences. Since reality does not conform to their own preferences, and morality is egocentric, that means God must be an asshole for causing reality to deviate from egocentric morality. If God was good then God would be like Superman.
Super God would automatically intervene in every instance where reality deviates from the preferences of the individual. Super God is the ultimate incarnation of the nanny state. Super God negates all free will because free will implies a freedom to harm others, and if God conformed to individual preferences of egocentric morality then we couldn't have something like that, could we? That's why the robots need to imprison us, because humans are too irresponsible to take care of themselves.

This mistaken view of God as Superman, or Super God, can lead to one of two conclusions for people: atheism, in the form of the problem of evil, or misotheism, the hatred of God.

I've spoken about the problem of evil, or as I call it the non-problem of evil, because I just don't see what the problem is. The real problem is lack of wisdom and maturity (and perhaps imagination) on the part of the person assuming the problem.

We can see a good example of how the idea of God as Superman leads to atheism in Michael Drosnin's book The Bible Code. Michael Drosnin is speaking with an Israeli mathematician who originally discovered the code Eliyahu Rips. Assuming the code exists, Rips believes that the author is God, while Drosnin does not. Rips is an Orthodox Jew and believes in the God of the Torah. Drosnin is an atheist because he believes in Super God.

"For me, it was not that simple. I had proof there was a code, but not proof there was a God. If the Bible code came from an all-powerful God, he would not need to tell us the future. He could change it himself. The code seemed, instead, to be from someone good, but not all-powerful, who wanted to warn us of a terrible danger so we could prevent it ourselves." (P. 87)

That's a pretty powerful theological assumption underpinning Drosnin's desire to write God out of the picture.

For Michael Drosnin one could just as easily call the problem of evil "the problem of laziness." "If God exists then he could do things for me, so why should I have to? Since I have to do these things, therefore God doesn't exist." Michael Drosnin basically says the exact same thing "If the Bible code came from an all-powerful God, he would not need to tell us the future. He could change it himself." You can almost hear the author whinging: "But I don't wanna change the future, why can't God do it for me? Because he's stinky, that's why! I have to change the future myself, so God doesn't exist, aliens did it!"

So, who is the encoder? You might as well ask, "If the teacher already knows the answer why do I have to answer the question? It must be because the teacher doesn't exist." Why do we have to do things instead of having God do everything for us? Why do we have to do things instead of having almighty government do everything for us? For our own protection why don't we let the robots sequester us away where nothing bad can ever happen to us?

If Michael Drosnin cannot get around his childish fantasy of Super God doing everything, thus freeing Michael Drosnin of all thought and responsibility, what hope does he have of accepting God as the author of the code (assuming the code exists)?

The solution to the problem of evil is called theodicy. People have been writing theodicy for thousands of years, beginning perhaps with the Book of Job. God in Job gives us a sort of non-answer, basically saying Who are we to demand answers from God? Where we there when God created the world? Can we comprehend things from God's perspective from our vantage point here on Earth in these finite bodies?

This makes sense on one level, because just as a dog cannot comprehend why a human might do seemingly cruel things, like a vet performing an operation or something, from the wiser perspective of the human the operation makes perfect sense. The human has the dog's best interests in mind when performing the operation that will cause pain and discomfort because it corrects some life-threatening problem that the dog was facing. The little pain the human induces is better than the alternative, which is much greater suffering and death. We might not understand the purpose of suffering, from our limited, finite perspectives, but an omniscient God does, and sees that it is for the best.

That might make sense on one level, but it doesn't really like a satisfying answer, because we could basically say the same thing about anything. Why does anything exist instead of nothing? Why the sky blue? Why is gravity the weakest of the fundamental forces? Literally any question can be answered with "That's for God to know and don't ask questions, mortal." Philosophy vanishes at that point (and leaves me with nothing to do). That's why theodicy evolved beyond the Book of Job, not because the answer is distasteful, but because it's boring.

The existence of God was taken as given only until maybe the seventeenth century. People suffered deeply, but they didn't question the existence of God. They had a more mature view of God. The idea of Super God hadn't been invented yet. People pursued theodicy as philosophy, as love of wisdom, as a mystical practice, not in order to answer David Hume or Michael Drosnin. Philosophers wanted to get into the mind of God. "This is why you suffer, now what are you going to do about it?" That was the original purpose of theodicy. It's a more mature view than sitting in an armchair and trying to defend the idea that God is not Super God, because you're actually doing something with your life. You're actually progressing toward a goal, not just resting in a sense of smug self-assurance.

Jesus said "In the world you will have to suffer." John 16:33 is what I call the heart of the Gospels. "These things I have told you, that in me you might have peace. In the world you will have to suffer, but cheer up, I have overcome the world." It can't get any more simple than that. Suffering is an intrinsic part of life in this world. The Apostles not only believed that, they also believed God exists and that Jesus is God.

These weren't stupid people. Ancient people were not stupid. In a lot of ways they were smarter than people living today, because ancient people had to live side-by-side with death and privation on a daily basis. Knowing how to use a smart phone or the names of all 57 genders won't save you if the apocalypse happens and an EMP destroys all electronics, but knowing how to plant crops and make fire will. The Apostles could be transported to the modern world and in a relatively short amount of time (especially the ones who spoke Greek like Matthew and Paul, although Paul came later) they could use their skills to find jobs and survive.

On the contrary, if you were transported back to the first century you would almost certainly die of exposure or be killed by bandits in a week. Machines and other people do most of the living for you. You just need to show up at your job inserting tab A into slot B, if you have one, or maybe just sit on your ass and collect welfare and all your needs are met for you. The world has become so integrated that people have become specialised to a degree even people living two generations ago could not fathom. It's led to boredom, laziness, and a lack of wisdom and morality. Furthermore, it led to the creation of the idea of Super God.

Buddha too said in the first Noble Truth that life is full of suffering. He also said that suffering comes from desire (pride in the Christian tradition*), that there is an end to suffering, as Jesus alluded to, and we even have his solution to escaping suffering: the eightfold path. In Christianity we had hints of this path mentioned in the Gospel of Thomas and in the monastic practices of the Desert Fathers, but those teachings were lost for a millennium due to the meddling of Athanasius of Alexandria.

*As a side note, nowhere in Buddhism, not even its most advanced teachings found in Tibet, explains the origin of suffering as far as I can tell. Christianity does mention the origin of suffering, and, unlike the new age spiritualist teachings, Christianity makes recourse to known human psychology rather than assuming the potential motives of omnipotent, omniscient, eternal, indestructible beings. Suffering, in Christianity, arose out of pride, which is a specific desire, the desire to be special. God loves us all equally, but Lucifer wanted special love, thinking himself better than the rest of creation. Since God refused him special love he decided to poison creation by introducing pride into the hearts of humans and angels, leading to the war in Heaven and the fall of man.

C. S. Lewis had a brilliant thing to say about the non-problem of evil. He noted that the problem is based around a contradiction. If the world was as bad, even half as bad, as people who use the problem of evil believe, then there's no way the idea of a good God could have ever arisen. If the world was so filled with evil and suffering that it could prove God does not exist then no one would have ever thought up the idea of God in the first place. The only way the idea of God could exist is if the world is nowhere near as bad as the problem of evil people believe it to be.

As if the idea of Super God leading to atheism wasn't bad enough (at least there are rational atheists, and atheistic arguments aside from the problem of evil, which is a very poor argument), what's even worse is the idea of Super God leading to misotheism. Misotheism is absolute laziness. It is absolute narcissistic infantile histrionic personality disorder. And I mean that in the technical sense. People who hate God have highly unstable and exaggerated emotions, are attention-seeking, have excessive pride, an unshakable belief in one's own rightness, and at the same time an unshakable belief that their own problems are absolutely unique in the history of the world and that no one has ever suffered to anywhere near as great a degree that they have, are unwilling to accept personal responsibility and have a need to blame others for one's own mistakes, are often hypochondriacs, and often perceives relationships as more intimate than they actually are.

Hating God or being angry with God is a form of idolatry. It is replacing God with a Bogey Man of your own ego. The idea of Super God leading to atheism makes sense, because Super God doesn't exist. Self-evidently, because otherwise there would be no problem of evil. The problem of evil exists because God isn't Super God. Super God doesn't go around solving other people's problems. Not believing in something that self-evidently doesn't exist is rational. It's poor theology, but it's still rational thinking. Misotheism, on the other hand, is completely irrational. Misotheism is seeing that Super God doesn't exist and then turning around and creating an evil counterpart to Super God. Misotheism is turning God into the Bogey Man. [The evil counterpart to Super God – the Bogey Man – is technically an extreme version of dystheism, the idea that God is not entirely good. In its extreme form dystheism supposes an entirely evil deity. The hatred of God – misotheism – naturally supposes that this extreme form of dystheism is true.]

The Bogey Man is a fictional entity whose purpose is to terrorise mainly children, because, let's face it, a lot of adults are assholes. Super God as the Bogey Man is a fictional entity for histrionic people to project their anger onto for being inadequate, because histrionic people are assholes.

Super God as the Bogey Man (who I will hereafter refer to simply as the Bogey Man) would not only be less good and moral than regular God, the Bogey Man would be evil. The Bogey Man would be the antithesis of God.

The Bogey Man must suspend free will in order to intervene in all situations. People want Super God to intervene to stop criminals from committing crimes, for example. People don't ask for Super God to prevent criminals from thinking about committing crimes, but for Super God to intervene only in the act of preventing crimes. Since Super God (the Bogey Man) is also believed to be the cause of all things then that means the Bogey Man must have placed the thought to cause the crime into the mind of the criminal and then is supposed to intervene in stopping the criminal from committing the crime. The criminal is just a puppet in the Bogey Man's hands. The criminal's mind is shackled to a body that it has no control over. The Bogey Man is making the criminal commit the crime and then prevents the crime as it is happening. The Bogey Man chooses to make some people sinners, destined for Hell just to have people to send to Hell.

If the Bogey Man exists then nothing you do has any meaning, because the Bogey Man is pulling all the strings. The Bogey Man controls all your actions, causes all of your suffering (even suffering caused by your own choices, because you have no free will, which conveniently relieves you of any responsibility), and then hands out punishment or reward on fiat.

The existence of the Bogey Man is even worse than that. Not only are you being made to suffer in life and rewarded or punished at random, you don't even control your own body. At the very least your mind is locked into a body that you have no control over (in some extreme cases even your mind is controlled by the Bogey Man, freeing histrionic misotheists from responsibility even for their own thoughts). That's absolutely terrifying. At best you are a prisoner of a body you do not control. At worst even your anger itself is caused by the Bogey Man.

If the Bogey man exists not only is your life meaningless, your life is nothing but entertainment for an omnipotent sadist. That's even worse than Descartes' evil demon, who can only trick you. With Descartes' evil demon you can still realise that the world is an illusion and come to know the true God through reason. The Bogey Man directly controls you, absolutely. While it is possible to outsmart the evil demon the Bogey Man is totally unbeatable.

Super God as the Bogey Man must be evil. That's why belief that Super God actually exists leads to misotheism.

Why someone would believe in the Bogey Man I've already explained. People who believe in the Bogey Man have to believe in the Bogey Man. Not because the Bogey Man forces them to believe, but because the Bogey Man frees them from responsibility and makes their problems out to be totally unique in the history of the universe.

Of course God is not Super God, or the Bogey Man. Belief in Super God or the Bogey Man is stupid and childish. The same God who gave us reason did not intend for us to forgo its use. That line of thinking will lead us eventually to Blaise Pascal, Rene Descartes, and into using our reason and contemplation to reach a better understanding of the mind of God and the origin of and solution to suffering.

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