Herausgegeben von Alois Payer (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Zitierweise / cite as:
Robinson, William J. (William Josephus) <1867 - 1936>: If I were God <Teilausgabe>. -- Fassung vom 2007-11-16. -- URL: http://www.payer.de/religionskritik/robinson01.htm
Ursprünglich erschienen in:
Robinson, William J. (William Josephus) <1867 - 1936>: If I were God : a freethinker's faith. Incorporating a discussion between the author and a catholic priest. -- New York : Freethought Press, 1930. -- 186 S. -- S. 82 - 124. -- Online: http://www.archive.org/details/MN40078ucmf_2. -- Zugriff am 2007-11-16
Erstmals publiziert: 2007-11-16
Dieser Text ist Teil der Abteilung Religionskritik von Tüpfli's Global Village Library
The belief in an Omnipotent and benevolent God derives much of its popularity from the gratifying importance that it confers upon human life.We know that our lives are immensely insignificant. We know this for a fact, and yet the knowledge is to most of us intolerable. We cannot endure that we should be of no account to anybody, and it is a natural process, therefore, to invent an immensely important and powerful being whose main purpose it is to watch over our welfare, and to guide and assist our footsteps. We conceive him as a terribly jealous and watchful gentleman, who carefully notes down the misdeeds of our enemies with a view to settling their accounts in an after life, and as carefully registers our own unrequited merit with a view to settling our account in somewhat different terms. In wartime he inevitably takes the same view of the rights and wrongs of the dispute as we do ourselves and can be relied upon in due course to see that right coincides with might.
By making our lives and welfare a matter of interest and care to a being of such tremendous importance, we undoubtedly add to the significance of human life: and when we tack on the notion that this Being has expressly created us in his own image, even the demands of human conceit are in a fair way to being satisfied. JOAD.
Chapter Nine. IF I WEREGOD
THEGOD of the sincere orthodox believer is an omnipotent, all-wise and loving God. There are no limitations whatever to his power to do anything that he wants to do, and he loves mankind with a boundless love. In fact, as so many believers express it, God is Love. If he is omnipotent and loving and we cannot imagine him otherwise, for if he were not omnipotent, he could not have created the world, and if he were not filled with love for mankind, we could not worship him; in other words, if he were not omnipotent and loving, he would not be God then there are certain things which are quite incomprehensible, which deserve the severest criticism, and which I would have managed quite differently, if I were God.
If I had beenGod in the first instance, I would have managed things quite differently, and if God gave me his omnipotence for an hour, I would eliminate many horrible things for which he is responsible. For one thing we must admit : God being omnipotent, and nothing in the universe taking place without his knowledge and consent, nothing being capable of existence without his creative power, he must be held responsible for everything.
Yes, if I were God, I would eliminatemany senseless, horrible things, and the first thing I would eliminate from the universe, or rather from the human race, would be Cruelty. Can you think what an enormous difference it would make, how much incalculable misery would disappear at once, if cruelty were eliminated from the human heart? There are people now, and there always have been some, to whom the idea, the sentiment of cruelty is so abhorrent as to be quite unthinkable in connection with them. Not only could they not be cruel and cause suffering to a child or to an adult man and woman, they could not be cruel to any living thing, no matter how humble in the animal scale. There are such human beings ; now, why could not all mankind, every human being be that way? God beiing omnipotent, capable of creating or not creating anything, why could he not have created a human race without any cruelty in its character? See what it would have eliminated it would have eliminated all war. A man being incapable of being cruel, of causing suffering to another human being, would certainly be incapable of sticking a bayonet into him; and of shattering him with a bullet; so there would have been no wars or wholesale murders! Also, there would have been no private murders. Also, there would have been no such infamous institutions as the Spanish and other Inquisitions where people were tortured most horribly and then slowly roasted to death. There would have been no dark dungeons into which human beings were thrown down and made to undergo indescribable agonies for years and years, often forgotten in their living graves until driven insane or released by death.
See what horrible miserymankind would have escaped during the past hundred thousand years, if God, in creating man had created him without the ingredient of cruelty in his make-up. And do you really think, does anyone think, that it was a fine, decent, sporting thing of God to do to create men cruel, so that they may cut one another's throats, murder one another retail, slaughter one another wholesale, and cause one another unspeakable physical tortures and unutterable mental agonies? Would a loving father, who could do otherwise, deliberately engender children who would hate, fight and murder one another? Would he? No, decidedly it was not a fine, sporting thing in God to create so many men with a cruel make-up, when it would have been just as easy (bear in mind the word omnipotent) to create all men kindhearted and generous.
And I say again: If I were God, the first thing I would abolish, eliminate, annihilate, would be Cruelty. I think and think and think, and cannot think of a single thing, a single circumstance where cruelty was, is or ever could be of the smallest bit of use. Iknow we are told that God's ways are inscrutable and that we must not criticize and try to understand; yet, Reason has been given us in order that we may try to understand, and on this point I must be firm; and I must say that anybody who dares to try to make us believe that there is some good in cruelty is either an ignoble sophist or pardon me just a fool.
And,before I go any further, I wish to make one point clear: I am not writing this for the sake of facetiousness or ribaldry. I often laugh at a man's political or social-economic creed. I never laugh at a man's religious opinions, childish or idiotic as these may be. For my own religious ideas were once childish and I know how deeply I felt about them and I therefore know how other people cherish theirs. No, I am jotting down these thoughts in all earnestness, and even reverence, for the purpose of making people think; for the purpose of making them adopt, if possible, a gentler, finer, more generous and more loving God than the one they have been, worshipping. As each man creates his God in his own image, perhaps on giving the matter earnest thought, they will he shocked at their own images, and at the God they have created for themselves, and will attempt to change both.
So, then, to say it once more, the first thing I would utterly abolish, banish from men's hearts, would be Cruelty. And I wish to say that Cruelty applies to thehuman race only. Animals and even the so-called ferocious beasts are not cruel. And when we speak of beastly cruelty, as cruel as a beast, it is a libel on the beast. When a carnivorous beast is hungry, it pounces upon its victim, kills it and is done with it; it does not cunningly devise tortures and agonies lasting for days, weeks and years. And except perhaps in the case of the cat and the mouse, we cannot speak of cruelty in animals. Cruelty is a specific human attribute with which the omnipotent God in his loving-kindness has endowed mankind.
Thething next to cruelty that I would eliminate is Hate. Hate is not synonymous with cruelty. A man can be cruel without hating, and a man can hate without being cruel. But hate is a vile thing, poisoning human relations, noxious alike to the hater and the hated. And why millions of people should go about with hate in their hearts, hating their neighbors, hating even their closest relatives there is no hatred more intense than that which prevails in some families is a mystery that only God, who is all loving-kindness, can solve. But he does not seem to be willing to solve it for us, and we are fully entitled to ask : Couldn't the omnipotent, all-loving God have filled the human heart with love instead of with hate? Being omnipotent, the one would have been just as easy for him as the other. So why choose Hate instead of Love? It seems kind of contradictory or inconsistent in a God that is all Love. Don't you think so?
I say, "I would eliminate," "I would abolish." I use this tense assuming that I was to become God now.But if I had been God in the first instance, if I had had the job from the very beginning, before it was given to the present God, I simply would not have created those ugly things, Cruelty and Hate, along with many other horrible monsters which we will discuss presently, and I would therefore not feel under the necessity of eliminating or abolishing them. There would be nothing ugly or cruel to eliminate or to abolish.
Alongwith Hate I would eliminate or would have non-created racial and religious antagonisms. Hate and hatred is directed against a definite person or persons, for definite reasons, stupid and false as these reasons may be. Racial and religious antagonism is hatred directed against an entire race, nation or religious confession just stupid antagonism without any sense or reason. Again, I, with, my poor reason, fail to see why he had to instill such a thing into the hearts of men. How much bloodshed, how much misery, how much destruction has been caused by just this one thing racial and religious antagonism? Being omnipotent, could he not have created international amity and universal friendship instead?
Personally, if I had been God to start with, I would have made but one race, one nation. But if for some inscrutable reason the present God thought it necessary to create several races or nations, or to diversify the one original human race into several branches, he certainly could have made them live in mutual love and respect ; instead of as at present in mutual hatred. No, that was not nice of him at all, and I'll say that, no matter what the priests may say to the contrary, no matter what sophistical arguments they may use. It was not nice of him at all to make several races and then make them fly at each other's throats. Not nice, God.
If I had been God, I should certainly not have been so cruel as to create the cruellest of all human emotions sexual jealousy. Of all the sensations the human soul is capable of, none can cause such horrible agonies, such exquisite torture, such incurable, unsoothable suffering as can sexual jealousy. And I fail to see why it was necessary to create such a sentiment in the human heart. Those who try to find reasons and excuses for God's cruellest blunders say that sexual jealousy was useful and even necessary, because it was instrumental in establishing monogamy. To this we reply, First it has failed to do it. There is no country in the world in which real monogamy prevails. There is secrecy, there is hypocrisy, but no real monogamy. Second it is a question if monogamy is really the best and only form of sex relationship for all people. Third', it, i.e., jealousy, has broken up more homes than it has held together. Fourth if monogamy could be established only by a cruelly ferocious sentiment which leads to nameless agony, to suicide and to murder, then the game was not and is not worth the candle. Fifth God, being omnipotent (never fail to bear this in mind) could very easily have established monogamy by other means than that of sexual jealousy. He could have instilled into the human heart such a strong monogamous feeling that once married, the man and the woman could simply have no desire for or thoughts of any other woman or man. Now, couldn't he have done that? Also, he could have arranged it so that love should always be mutual. So that there would be no case of unrequited love. Also, that no person could fall in love with another person whose heart was already otherwise engaged. How much misery would have been avoided !
FEAR. I have been trying for a long time to find some use for fear, but my efforts have remained utterly fruitless. No man can be a happy man or a good man as long as he is afraid. No woman, no child can. I would eliminate every trace of fear do not confound fear with prudence from the heart of every man, woman and child that walks on earth.
"Butpeople must have fear of something!" Why must they? Where is the good in it? "They must fear God." Why must they? Isn't it better that they should just love him and not fear him? Which children generally grow up better men and women those that love and respect their parents and obey them out of love and respect, or those that tremble before their parents and do what they are told out of fear of punishment? No, there is no reason at all why we should fear God, and only a cruel, sadistic God would want his children to fear him. A loving parent does not want his children to fear him, and a loving God would not want it either. "People must be afraid of God, afraid of punishment, otherwise they would be cruel, would commit many sins and crimes." Why would they, if God, instead of cruelty and hate, had filled their hearts with gentleness and love? No, there is no reason, excuse or use for fear. It is a cruelly noxious sentiment, and if I were God, I would obliterate it so completely that not a trace of it would remain. And, of course, if I had been God from the beginning, Fear would not have been one of my creations. The human race would not know what fear means, what the word signifies.
And so, out of sentiments or what some people call instincts, I would eliminate, or would have guarded against creating, the above five : Cruelty, Hate, Racial Antagonism, Jealousy and Fear. I would obliterate every trace of them. Instead of cruelty, I would fill everyhuman heart with gentleness and kindness, instead of hate affection, instead of racial antagonism mutual respect and amity, instead of jealousy perfect love and confidence, instead of fear courage. How much happier, how much more decent a world this would have been!
Buta number of other changes would be necessary before this could be a perfect world. I do not know just what God was about when he created the earth and its most important inhabitant, man. He must have been nodding. He certainly was not fully awake, or, loving mankind as he does, he could not have created so many cruel, ugly things which make man's life a nightmare, and in many cases, a continuous torture from the cradle to the grave.
POVERTY. Why, for instance, has he created poverty? Why should people suffer the gnawing pangs of hunger, or be forced to eat poor, monotonous food,why should they wear shameful rags and be obliged to live in dark, cramped hovels or to wander about and sleep in the streets ? What would you think of a father who would throw some of his children into the street to beg or starve or to become criminals? What would you think of such a father, particularly if you knew that the father had everything in abundance and that he could supply all his children, if he so wanted, with everything in plenty? Why couldn't God have arranged matters so (don't forget that he is omnipotent), that everybody without exception should have sufficient food, the necessary clothes according to climate and a decent comfortable shelter? I do not say he should have furnished this to everybody without their working for it. On the contrary, work is good for man, and complete idleness is perhaps worse than too much work. But God certainly could have managed it so that every human being might have his congenial work which should give him a decent living, without fear of anybody, without dependence on anybody. Poverty is a vile thing which makes people mean, small, sordid, avaricious and now and then directly leads to crime. And so, I would abolish poverty. It was not a fine, generous God who has permitted poverty to exist for so many millions of years, and if I were God, I would obliterate every trace of it.
LUXURY. Butalong with poverty, I would also abolish luxury, excessive wealth. Poverty is bad; excessive wealth is also bad. It leads to idleness, to vice, to crime, to Power, which is a dangerous thing in the hands of most men; for in the greatest majority of instances, power leads to oppression, to enslavement, to injustice. And it is really difficult, if not impossible, for the most reverent of men, for the most sincere believer, to think of God as Just, when he sees the terrible wretchedness, the heart-breaking poverty on the one hand, and the wasteful, exhibitionistic wealth and luxury on the other. And it is the source of that vile institution slavery. Even now, when slavery as an institution has been abolished, the poor man is practically a slave. And without any fault of the poor, without any merit of the rich. A really just God could not have done such things with his senses fully alert. As I said, he must have been nodding when he permitted such unjust inequality: some men to die of hunger, and others to burst from excess.
GERMS. If I were God, I would at once destroy, utterly annihilate all pathogenic or disease breeding germs. I cannot see of what use, what service they are to humanity. What motive guided Godwhen he created the germs of diphtheria, scarlet fever, whooping cough, tuberculosis, tetanus (or lockjaw), cancer (if the cause of cancer is a germ) and numerous others, is to me an unsolvable mystery. Bear in mind that we are talking from the point of view of man. A germ may be as important to itself as man is to himself, but it is for man and not the germ that we hold the brief in this discussion. I cannot see the human purpose of the Klebs-Loeffler bacillus, the bacillus which causes diphtheria. I do not see why God should have created it at all and why he should have given it the right to steal into a child's throat, develop there a nasty membrane and strangle the child to death. I remember well a little sister I had; she was a lovely, beautiful child; everybody's delight. Suddenly she was struck down with that disease. How she suffered, how she choked, how painfully she struggled for breath! It was more than any one could stand. It was agony to watch her. Diphtheria antitoxin had not yet been invented, the doctor in the small town could perform no tracheotomy or intubation, and so the child struggled for days until it died in dreadful agonies. I was then nine or ten years old. I asked my religious father, why the good God did such a thing. He said we must not ask such questions ; the good God knew the reason, but nobody else could know it. I remember that this answer did not satisfy me, young as I was. I know the answer that a priest gave when asked the same question in a similar case. "God's ways are inscrutable. Perhaps he took that child away in order to save her greater suffering when she grew up ; perhaps she would have been a great sinner or a criminal; and so he took her away when she was still innocent, and her soul was pure and free from sin." Can you fathom the depth of the perversity of a mind that would invent such an excuse or would be satisfied with such an answer? God choked the little girl to death at the age of two and a half in order to save her from suffering or sin when she grew up! But why should she suffer and be a wretched sinner when she grew up, when everything depends on God? God being omnipotent, why couldn't he make her grow up a fine, lovely woman and live to a happy old age? And if he knew and he did know, for God is omniscient that that child would grow up a sinner and that in order to save her from sin he would have to choke the life out of her at the age of two, why did he create her at all? Why was it necessary that she be born at all? No, I can reason fairly calmly and preserve a judicial attitude in discussions, but certain arguments make me nauseous, and the above excuse for murdering children with diphtheria poison is one of them.
There is another excuse given for the existence of germs and of the diseases they cause.God created them in order to give the human intellect work, in order to make man search and find antidotes to overcome their ravages. This, also, is the excuse of a perverted mind. If germs and their diseases did not exist, there would be no necessity to search for antidotes and for weapons to overcome them. As to exercise for the human intellect, there are enough fields and opportunities for it, without the need of first causing untold human misery and then engaging it in the endeavor to overcome that misery. The human mind can exercise its power and ingenuity in such sciences as astronomy, mathematics, physics, chemistry, geology, botany etc., etc. all splendid and enchantingly interesting fields and unconnected with human agony. The excuse is on a par with the argument that finds some good in War; some surgeons had the stupidity to assert that the millions of wounded in the war increased the knowledge of military surgery, hence war brings some benefit. Yes, but if there were no war, there would be no necessity for military surgery! As to the accidents in civil life, they are of a different character, and, besides, ninety per cent of all accidents are quite easily preventable. It is greed, rush and sadistic disregard of other people's safety that are responsible for most accidents, and all those factors can be eliminated. The above referred to case of the beautiful child, choking to death from diphtheria, was one of the several factors that shook my faith in God's omnipotence, wisdom and love for the human race.
Iremember a young man, who gave great promise and was the idol of his parents. He was moderate in all things, lived a hygienic life, and strictly "according to the laws of nature." Suddenly at the age of nineteen he contracted tuberculosis nobody knows how and in six months he was dead. And he was a sincerely religious young man, too. Now, why was it necessary? Why was it necessary to slay that young man at such an early age and strike his parents a blow from which they have never recovered?
I saw once a man afflicted with tetanus (lockjaw). Itwas the only case I ever saw and I hope never to see another one as long as I live. The man, who was a working man and had worked very hard all his life, stepped on a rusty nail, and soon the symptoms of lockjaw showed themselves. The jaws were locked so tight that they could not be pried open in order to give him some food, or to administer medicine. He had such violent backward convulsions that the head touched his heels and it looked as if his spinal column would break. The chloral and the bromides that were administered per rectum had very little effect. Tetanus antitoxin was unknown yet and so with a distorted face, a convulsed body, suffering agonies for several days, which would have drawn tears from a Spanish inquisitor like Torquemada, he expired. Now, what excuse is there for such villainy? Why cause a living being such agonies? I would not suffer a mouse to undergo such agonies; and yet here we see a "just," "merciful," "loving" God inflict such agonies on a poor human being who believed in him implicitly and who never caused any other being any harm. Is that right?
I trust that what I write will some day be published and be readby reasonable human beings, and I ask in all sincerity any reasonable or even half-reasonable man or woman: What would you think of any human father who would knowingly, deliberately inflict on a number of his children, some of them still infants, some adolescents, horrible, painful, disfiguring diseases which would carry off many of them into premature graves, before they have had a chance to enjoy or even to taste life? What epithet would you apply to such a father?
And it is not only individual disease. Why are there horrible epidemics, the plagues, the Black Deaths, the pests, the choleras that ravaged and decimatedEurope in the fourteenth, seventeenth and other centuries, so that there were not enough people to bury the dead? What is the sense in creating life and then destroying it in torture and agony? Have you read a description of the plague or the Black Death? If you haven't, do so. Would a reasonable, loving, human being send such scourges on his fellow creatures? And if no decent human being would do such a thing, why should the All-Wise, All-Loving, Omnipotent God permit himself such amusements?
DISEASES IN GENERAL. What I said about germs andgerm diseases applies, with almost, though not quite, the same force to disease in general. I say it does not apply with quite the same force, because germ diseases are always unmerited. The person who gets infected with a germ disease is always "innocent." While in the case of other diseases, the patient is sometimes to blame. For instance, if a man gets obese and sick from overeating and from too sedentary a life, it is more or less the man's own fault. God cannot be directly blamed for it. The same is true in the case of the excessive use of alcohol, addiction to narcotics, sexual excesses, etc. They are diseases induced by the person's own lack of will-power, and here God can only be blamed indirectly, for having endowed his favorite creation, Man, with such a weak will. But when diphtheria germs get lodgment in a child's throat, or tubercle bacilli in a man's lungs or brain or spinal marrow, the victims are not to blame; God alone is to blame. For this reason I separated the germ diseases from the other ills. But even in the case of the latter God could have been more kind, more generous. And if I were God I would certainly abolish by far the greater number of all diseases. I might retain just a few as a warning against foolish excesses.
PAIN. Pain usually accompanies disease, but there is disease without pain, and there is pain, even atrocious pain without disease. I have searched diligently, but have failed to find any sense or reason in pain, and if I were God, I would abolish physical pain absolutely. Those philosopherswho consider this the best of all possible worlds, and try to find an excuse for everything that is, no matter how self-evidently stupid, noxious and noisome the thing may be, find, of course, an excuse and a reason for pain also.
Pain, they tell us, is a danger signal, it warns us of the approach of disease; without the admonition that pain gives us,we would let ourselves go until the disease was too far advanced to be curable. Now, first of all, as I would abolish practically all disease, there would be no use of any danger signals to warn us of the approach of disease ; second, if God created pain as a danger signal, why are there serious, life-endangering diseases which are not accompanied by pain? There are many cases of kidney disease, of heart disease, or diabetes, in which pain is no accompaniment, and we become aware of the existence of these diseases by other symptoms, sometimes accidentally, sometimes when it is too late to do anything. Third, what good does it do a patient with advanced cancer to suffer continuous, atrocious, excruciating pain? What is the pain a warning of? If God were really good, there would, of course, be no such a thing as cancer; but if for some inscrutable reason, he were determined to have a certain number of people afflicted with and die of cancer, he could at least let them die peacefully, painlessly. And, fourth, the greatest, the most excruciating pain a human being is called upon to endure is not with any disease at all, but in the accompaniment of a perfectly normal, physiological process, namely: Childbirth.
If I dared to enter into a heated argument with God, I would askhim respectfully but firmly to give me a straightforward, unequivocal answer why he had to accompany childbirth in the human female with such atrocious pain. Why? Having a child is no sin, so why should the mother suffer so? God himself wanted the human race to be fruitful, to multiply and replenish the earth, so why should he penalize the act of childbirth, why should it be accompanied by such excruciating suffering that many a woman who went through the experience once never wants to go through it again? Where is the sense and the reason of pain in labor? And the echo answers : nowhere. There is no sense and no reason in it, and therefore we poor humans are searching and searching to find out ways of diminishing or abolishing the pain, the atrocious, tearing, excruciating pain that God has inflicted upon woman who is but fulfilling a biological commandment : to perpetuate the human race.
CRIME, SINAND WAR. This is perhaps the most important of all the topics we have discussed so far, and it is necessary to examine it carefully without prejudice, but also without fear; we must go to the root of the matter, regardless of what conclusions we may reach. It is useless to discuss God unless we assume that God is Omnipotent, Omniscient and is lovingly interested in the human race. The Omnipotence is a sine qua non. If he is not omnipotent he is no God. But there is no difficulty in assuming his omnipotence. A being that has created himself, the boundless universe with its millions of worlds and with everything, living and non-living in them is certainly Omnipotent. He can do everything. And whatever he does is good. Whatever he does has a reason, and nothing that happens, happens without his knowledge, without his consent, without his will. Nothing can happen if he does not wish it to happen. Not a sparrow falls to the ground, not a hair falls from a man's head without God's will. If a man is tall or short, fat or slim, beautiful or ugly, wise or stupid, kind or vicious, saintly or criminal, a millionaire or a beggar, if he lives in a palace or pines away in a solitary prison cell, if he sits on a throne or dies in the electric chair, if he is an all-round athlete or is disfigured and eaten up with disease, if he lives to be a hundred or dies at the age of twenty, it is all because God mils it so. There is no way out of it.
Now,I will ask you another question : What would you think of a human father who acted with his children the way God acts with his? The father, whom we will call Mr. A., has fourteen children ten sons and four daughters. It is in the power of Mr. A. to have all his children grow up fine, noble, healthy and happy. But Mr. A. doesn't want to use his power for beneficent purposes ; he lets the children grow up anyway they please and does not raise a finger to save them from disease, sin and crime. He looks on with perfect indifference. And here is the result. Of the four daughters, little Jeanne gets bronchopneumonia and dies at the age of five. Margaret is carried off by rapid consumption at the age of twenty; Ernie falls into evil ways, becomes a prostitute and throws herself into the river at the age of thirty; only one of the daughters marries and lives a useful and fairly happy life. Of the sons, one died in childhood of diphtheria, one died of general paralysis of the insane before he was thirty. Two of the sons became bitter enemies, fought frequently and finally they got at each other with knives, with the result that both were left dying on the ground, and both soon expired. One became a thief and a forger and spent many years in prison; one committed murder for the purpose of robbery, was caught and hanged. Of the four remaining sons, two became workingmen who made a meager living but lived peacefully; one was a successful painter, and one became a famous writer who not only wrote delightful books but devoted his life to the amelioration of mankind's lot.
Now,bear in mind that it was in the father's power to make all his children happy and useful men and women; and yet he did not want to do it, but for some reason he preferred the greater number of his children to live shamefully, miserably and to die horrible, shameful deaths. What do you think of such a father? Don't you consider him a horrible monster? To bring children into the world and then condemn them to a life of suffering and a death of horror can there be any greater crime? And what shall we think of God who deliberately condemns millions of human beings to a life of hard labor, senseless drudgery, slavery both literally and practically, hunger, cold, disease, sin, crime, prison and violent death? What shall we think of a God who could, if he wanted to, make everybody fine, decent, useful and happy, and yet persists in wilfully condemning hundreds of thousands of people to be morons, idiots or vicious criminals ? There is no way out of the dilemma, and though the argument may have been used a thousand times, it has never been answered. And it hasn't been answered, because it is unanswerable. It is like this: Either God is Omnipotent, the controller of everything, the determiner of every happening, or he is not. If he is not, then he is no God, and you act childishly, as childishly as the primitive savage who worships his wooden idol, in worshipping and praying to him. If, however, he is Omnipotent, if he does control and is responsible for everything that takes place in the human race, then what shall we think of him? What shall we think of a god who creates, let us say, Johnny Smith (an actual example), who is born into a poverty-stricken family; he is put out into the street at an early age; he gets in with bad company, learns to steal, is sent to a Reformatory; he gets out hardened and venomous; can hold no job for any length of time, becomes a thief, and a burglar, passes several years in prison; on leaving prison, he resumes his old trade, is chased and caught by a policeman, in the ensuing struggle the policeman is killed and Johnny Smith ends his life, at the age of thirty, in the electric chair. What shall we think of a God who permits, who does such things? For we agreed that he does everything and is responsible for everything. When he could just as well have had Johnny Smith grow up a fine, noble and happy man ah, it is too damnable! Johnny Smith did not ask to be brought into the world, and to condemn an innocent human being to such a life of crime and misery no, it is not Johnny Smith who is the criminal!
And what shall we think of a God who incites one nation against another, who makes dozens of nations fly at each other's throats until millions of the physically soundest men lie rotting in the ground, until fifty million are disfigured, mutilated and crippled, until billions of hard won material goods are destroyed, until hate fills and hangs over the world like a thick, black impenetrable cloud what shall we think of a God that does such a thing? What was the sense of it? What was the reason? What the purpose?
I know that there are some men, ministers of God they call themselves, who try to find an excuse even for war; even for the last war. They say God brought about the war to punish men for their levity, for their sins; and they justify God; they find no word of criticism against him for this most horrible of all crimes. Well, a man who will justify God for the last war, has such a low perverted mind, is himself such a cruel, sadistic degenerate, that no argument with him is possible. The idea of destroying and mutilating a hundred million men for their alleged sins, for sins which God himself is responsible for, for, of course, if he had wanted to, he could have prevented them! No, there is no excuse for the last war, there is no excuse for any war.
And no matter how you try, you cannot wriggle out of this dilemma; you are bound to take either of the horns : Either and this is the more charitable horn of the dilemma God is not omnipotent, but on the contrary, quite impotent, quite powerless to influence human affairs, to ameliorate the lot of humanity; in that case he is a useless God to whom to pray is just as futile as it is to pray to a wooden idol, or to a statue of the virgin Mary. Or, he is omnipotent, and he could prevent human misery and disease and crime and war, could, but doesn't want to and in that case, he is such a cruel, malignant monster, that the human imagination recoils in horror. Which horn of the dilemma will you take?
There is no third way out for the believer. Of course, the non-believer who denies altogether the existence of God is not confronted with either horn of the above dilemma. But that is a point, the discussion of which we will leave for later.
In the meantime, I will say most emphatically that if I had been God from the very beginning, there would be no such a thing as crime, sin, or war, and if I were made God now, I would abolish these scourges, without leaving the faintest trace of them. And how much better, how much happier, how much more beautiful a world this would be!
There are a number of other things that I should not have created if I had been the creator of the Universe or that I would wipe out, abolish, uproot, if I were given the position of God now. Let us enumerate some of those evil things.
SUPERSTITION. Superstition is a noxious, poisonous weed which fills the victim with fear, with terror and gives the cunning fraud, the shrewd and unscrupulous priest, the power over the gullible and the credulous. God, who has created the world and who knows that the universe is regulated by definite laws, knows very well that there are no miracles ; he knows that there is no paradise and no hell, and he should not have permitted the heads of the foolish and the ignorant to be terrorized by such nonsense. Every human intelligence should have been so saturated with the law of cause and effect, that a belief in miracles, in supernatural forces, in divine intervention, in Providence, were quite impossible; every mind should have been so constructed as to refuse belief in anything without adequate proof. For instance, if anybody talks about hell and purgatory and burning flames and eternal torment the listener should demand proofs. Where did the priest get his information? What proof can he offer that those things exist? How long would superstition, belief in hell, belief in the relics of saints, last, if people demanded proofs of the statements of their priests and leaders? Yes, I would abolish all superstitions and would instil into the people the law of cause and effect and the demands for proof.
CHURCH,RELIGION, INTOLERANCE. What I am going to say may, at first glance, appear rather strange; but it will be quite clear when I present my reasons. It may seem strange for God to object to church and to religion, yet if I had been God, I would have created neither church nor religion as the word is generally understood, and the world would have thus escaped the poisonous weed of intolerance resulting therefrom. God has need of neither church nor of any dogmatic religion, and the worship that men have rendered him, the worship with its human and animal sacrifices, its prostrations, genuflexions, prayers, processions, candles and so forth, are to him both ridiculous and obnoxious ; and man needs neither church nor dogmatic ceremonial religion in order to believe in or to worship God. A silent thought in one's home, during work, while in bed or on the street, is sufficient. As God is omnipresent and omniscient, it is all the same to him where and when you worship him, whether you pray to him in words, sing to him in psalms or communicate with him in unuttered thoughts.
If church religion consisted merely of foolish ceremonies and childish trappings, one could overlook it. Let the infantile adults amuse themselvesanyway they please, if in doing so they hurt nobody. But the great tragedy of mankind is that out of this church religion grew the most frightful intolerance, so that religion became one of the greatest curses of humanity, perhaps its most deadly scourge. There was no refined form of cruelty, there was no dastardly villainy, there was no devilish torture, there was no cruel manner of death that was not practiced in the name of religion by people who considered themselves the guardians and priests of religion. The oceans of blood that have been shed in the name of religion cannot be measured or fathomed they are too wide and too deep.
And though it be heartbreaking to say it, the truth demands that it be said:Of all the world's religions, the crudest, the most pitiless has been Christianity. Not the founder of it is to be blamed; his disciples and followers bear the bloody guilt. The insane and inhuman Crusades, the Albigensian, Waldensian and Catharian massacres, massacres to complete extermination in which neither man nor woman nor infant was spared ("slay all, God will know his own"), the St. Bartholomew night of horrors, the inquisition in which thousands upon thousands of fine and innocent men were subjected to blood-curdling tortures, broken on the wheel and roasted to death, the dungeons and oubliettes, sometimes more cruel than death, which awaited anybody who dared to give expression to a new thought or to the hope of a better future, the fearful thirty years' war, etc., etc. all these horrors were committed in the name of religion, by human beasts who claimed to be saintly and gentle followers of the gentle Jesus.
Witha fair knowledge of universal history, I am bound to admit that no other religion has been responsible for so much suffering, so much cruelty, so much bloodshed as Christianity. It bears the heaviest blood guilt. And there is nothing to counterbalance it. In the history of the past two thousand years, there is not a single instance of a great humane act on the part of the church; there is not an instance where the church stood up boldly for the people to defend it against the robbery and oppression of the feudal barons or the kings. Even Luther took sides with the oppressors and advised the crushing of the peasants when they dared to demand a share of the fruits of their labor. Not once did the church stand up and at a time when she had the power to make nations obey her commands and command peace instead of war. On the contrary, she encouraged war and blessed indiscriminately the banners of all warring Christian nations. In short, the church has never shown itself a real friend of humanity; at best it was hypocritical lip-service; but always boldly and openly it was on the side of the enemies of mankind, on the side of the robber barons, kings, emperors, czars or whatever title the tyrant oppressors happened to bear.
We are told by the church apologists that during the middle ages the priests and themonks kept up the torch of learning, that being the only literate people, they brought back the study of the classics. Historically speaking, this is about the most impudent statement that one could imagine. It is the church that retarded human progress at least one thousand years, it is the church that put a thick, impenetrable pall over the sun of learning and of science, so that humanity was enveloped in utter darkness, and if the priests and monks later learned to read and to write (from the Arabs, Jews and Greeks exiled from Constantinople after 1453), it is because they wanted to keep the power in their hands ; the people they did not permit to learn either to read or to write. Even the reading of the bible, bear in mind, was considered a crime. We are told that the priests and monks built hospitals and gave alms to the poor. Having gotten enormous tracts of the best land into their hands, so that the people were starving, they were willing to throw a bone occasionally to the latter. It cost them nothing, and it gave them a reputation for charity. They built enormous monasteries with well-filled cellars and lived on the fat of the land while the people lived in wretched hovels, working their lives away for a crust of bread. The beasts, the domestic animals lived a more comfortable life than did the men, women and children of the people. And the church never, never raised a finger to ameliorate their condition. It kept them in superstitious darkness and helped the temporal lords for a long period the spiritual were also the temporal lords to keep them in fear, subjection and slavery.
I have no Rabelaisian, Voltairean, Diderotean or d'Holbachian anti-church, anti-priest feeling. Iknow that there are sincerely religious people, lay and clerical, Catholic and Protestant, Jewish, Mohammedan, Buddhist, etc., who are perfectly humane and gentle and with whom I could well work together; but they are so not because, but in spite of their religion. And as an unbiased historian, I must maintain that organized religion, the organized church has always been the practically unmitigated curse of humanity.
And I have therefore very good reasons for saying that if I had beenGod to start with, I would have avoided, like the pest, religion and church. Love, kindness, justice, fair play are a good enough religion for everybody, and these things need no churches, no ceremonies, no dogmas, and certainly exclude every possibility of intolerance which has been the cause, one of the great causes, of Human Misery. If you, if anybody, can prove the contrary, I should like you or anybody to try it. I should like at least one clear, unimpeachable example where the church, when it had the power, stood up bravely to defend a people against and to free it from its oppressors ; one single example where the church prevented a war, or stopped one, not merely expressed a pious wish that Christians ought not to cut each other's throats, but actually commanded its followers to throw down their arms and to stop fighting on the pain of excommunication.
No, the church has never been pacifist. It was always militarist. And it stood by the side of, blessed and supported even such unspeakably loathsome, vilely criminal, boundlessly dishonorable creatures as Louis XV or FerdinandBomba! And I repeat and emphasize, the church has been a practically unmitigated curse to humanity. Its ministers have been enemies of the human race, cowards and corrupters. When a priest dared to stand up and to denounce the evil, he was burned like Savonarola. And Galas and Chevalier de la Barre I shall not give you their stories they are too nerve-racking; but you may look them up if you are interested. No, God made one of his great mistakes when he permitted the church and organized religion to be born.
AndSo . . .
And so if I were God, Omnipotent, Omniscient, Loving God, I would havemanaged things differently. I would not have permitted any cruelty in the world, which means in the human race; there would be no hate in it, no racial antagonism, no jealousy, no fear, no poverty, no excessive wealth, no infectious or other diseases, no pain, certainly no pain in childbirth, no crime, no war, no superstition, and no organized dogmatic religion with its religious intolerance which has been the cause of suffering incalculable and bloodshed immeasurable.
Don't you think, with all those evils eliminated, and their contraries taking their places, that this would be amuch better, a much finer, a much nobler and a much happier world to live in? And if this is so, haven't I the right, walking on the shores of the Mediterranean, to think that God has botched his job most dreadfully? And haven't all of God's children, or the children born of woman, a right to grumble against God's blunders against his incompetence, or what is still worse, his callousness?
Ifyou think differently, I wish you would state your viewpoint, giving the reasons for your opinions, as I have given the reasons for mine.
When Father L. returned the manuscript the following day, I askedhim if he found any weak spots in it, if he had any counter-arguments to make. And this was his answer: "From the human point of view, your arguments are unanswerable. Its logic is sound and your reasoning has no flaws in it. But faith is stronger than reason, and whoever has faith is immune against all arguments. God may have other reasons, other purposes which we poor mortals are too small to understand or to grasp. His ways are inscrutable."
What can one reply to such a statement?
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