Sunday, September 22, 2013

How do you know what is good?

How do you know your god is good? This is a question I really want to ask the righteous. There are any number of answers they could give, none of which would hold any water really. Most likely they would say something naive and childish like, "I know it in my heart" or "because the bible says so." But, really, the only answer that remotely comes close to being acceptable is, "Because I know the difference between good and evil."

To which I would ask if that was a learned cognitive ability or was it innate? Most people never actually read the bible (if they did they might become agnostic) but they certainly didn't get their morals from the "good book." If that were their answer, however, I would point out just how wrong they are. They might say, "God gave me morals," to which I would ask, "How do you know it was god?" You can see the inevitable circulate futile argument that would ensue.

Morals aren't a physical attribute you're born with; it's innate, but situations must arise through learned experience for morals to present themselves. When two preschool children want the same toy on the table and one grabs it first, the other child doesn't rationalize it's fair because god gave him morals. He tries to take the toy from the other child and some shoving and tears are sure to follow. Only when someone older steps in and explains why it's wrong to shove someone to the ground, etc. will the child start to understand right and wrong. It will really set in when that child is on the other end of the shoving or pain and understands how it feels to be treated poorly. 

The believer might inject here that if the adult learned morals, as I profess, then he must have learned them from the church/god and passed those morals on to their children. But that answer rings hollow. Are they actually implying secular people, who never had any religious influence or history, can't teach a child right from wrong? What about when churches and religion weren't around? Did we not have morals before the bible? Confucius made use of the Golden Rule long before Christ. Who was his moral compass?

Let's use a non-human example: You're a dog owner and you have three dogs. You come home to find the bag of dog treats has been ripped open and devoured. You call the three dogs into the room and say, "Who got into these treats?" Two dogs wag their tails and have that happy look about them, while the other one has its tail between its legs and sort of cowers. How does that dog know it did something wrong? It's not human; it knows nothing of a god or a bible, yet it knows instantly it did something wrong. How? Did a god give that dog morals? Of course not. Morals are learned because brains have the capacity to differentiate right from wrong. ... not because of fear of the unknown or because a book says so.

If we somehow got past this portion of the conversation, I would follow with: What is it that made you know your god's commands are right? Or how did you determine Satan was evil? They likely would cite the bible again. In the bible, Satan killed 10 people (with god's encouragement to prove a point), while god killed close to 2.5 million (and this is a number arrived at from specific body counts, not accounting for the Great Flood or S&G). If I said to you, "Which is worse, 10 people dying or 2.5 million?" what would you say? Yet the god of the bible is the good one? What frame of reference would you use to determine which is right and which is wrong? Just because a book, written by uneducated, misogynistic men in a remote part of the world thousands of years ago, says so, doesn't make it true. There are plenty of religions that have books that state its teachings are true. Are they?

How do you know god isn't really Satan telling you what to do? How can you be sure? Faith? Really? That is really a sad answer.

As an atheist, it's all hogwash to me, so don't for a second think I believe in Satan. I believe in only real things, things that can be proved in the natural world. This entire exercise is merely an attempt to show how ridiculous it is to take things at face value without critical thinking.

But I'd like to take the Satan angle just a little further, not to prove this character is good or bad, but to show just how remarkable it is that everyone assumes this mythological being was evil and god wasn't.

In this blog, I have stated numerous reasons why god, if he exists, performed heinous crimes against humanity and can be considered evil. So there's no sense in cataloging them here all over again. But let's take a look at Satan as described in the bible.

• When Satan convinced Eve to eat the fruit from the forbidden tree, he gave humanity knowledge of good and evil. Why is that a bad thing? Because god wanted everyone to follow him mindlessly.

• Satan doesn't murder or torture humans, nor does he order anyone else to kill other people, unlike god, who performs all of these acts proudly. If you're thinking Satan killed Job's children you would be correct (and that's the aforementioned 10 people), but only because god told him to do it to prove Job's loyalty, so again, god did it.

So what did Lucifer do that was so wrong that we are told he is the evil one? He defied god. And what was that defiance? God won't tell us. So, we know Satan is evil because god says so. How can we be certain god isn't the evil one? How do we know up isn't down, right isn't wrong? 

If you were in a courtroom and the judge asked the witness, "Who killed Joe Smith?" and the witness said, "Mike Smith." The judge doesn't say, "OK, Mike Smith is guilty!" No, we have a process and we weigh evidence. So, we have a book, and in that book the "author" says what is right and wrong, who is evil and who is good. And the only thing you have to go on to know if this book is true, is the book tells you it's true. Can't you see what is wrong with this picture?

This is why following a book of fiction that was supposedly the word of one being is the very definition of prejudice thinking and can't be taken objectively and rationally. You have to think for yourself; you have to experience both sides of the equation and recognize which feels right and which feels wrong. Only then will you know what morality is and have the knowledge to choose to follow it.

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