If Superheroes Acted Like God, Would They Still Be Considered the ‘Good Guys’?

What if our modern day superheroes solved problems like the God of the bible? Would they still be considered good? Why don’t we need to be told that Superman, Batman, The Avengers, etc, are good, but we do need to be told that God is good? Because actions speak for themselves. If you were never told that the God of the bible is good – if those verses were omitted – would you come to that conclusion on your own? The destroyer of cities and worlds who fail to worship Him…Good?! OR is it more likely that this God is a product of a culture seeking to justify its methods and actions against other cultures?

(via DarkMatters2525)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the chair of Foundation Beyond Belief and a high school math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago. He began writing the Friendly Atheist blog in 2006. His latest book is called The Young Atheist's Survival Guide.

  • http://www.facebook.com/adicusryangarton Adicus Ryan Garton

    I believe the correct answer is “No.”

    • viaten

      The correct answer is “YES” if they themselves said they’re good guys or made “special” people say they are, or else they wouldn’t be acting like God. They would be “considered” good guys. Whose going to say they aren’t?

  • http://fractalheretic.blogspot.com/ Fractal Heretic

    I used to believe that God was good because I thought I might end up in hell for thinking otherwise. It’s impossible to think objectively when an omnipotent thought-police is scrutinizing your every thought. For this reason, I think only an unbeliever can objectively evaluate the character of the Biblical god. Christians simply aren’t allowed to think negatively of him.

    • http://twitter.com/fmitchell Frank Mitchell

      The “God is good” mantra reminds me of euphemisms for the mythical fairy folk of the British Isles: the Good People, the Fair Folk, etc. Stories make it clear fairies are anything but good and kind, but calling them anything else might make them angry …

    • Ahab

      I was the same way when I was Catholic. (I have since deconverted and left the church.) When a control freak cosmic tyrant is holding your soul hostage, you tend not to look at him too closely.

  • Timmah

    Ironically in the recently released video game Injustice: Gods Among Us, Superman loses his mind and takes over the world as it’s godlike “protector”. Of course in reality he becomes an insanely evil control freak who has a temper tantrum when the people don’t love him enough. There is never any doubt that he is the main villain in the story and the heroes (and villains) trying to stop him are the good guys.

    • http://www.facebook.com/jeremy.shaffer.564 Jeremy Shaffer

      And they drive that point home later in the story- mode portion of the game by showing what evil Superman does to Captain Marvel* when the latter starts to voice doubts about Superman’s leadership and decisions. It’s even more horrific if you keep in mind that Captain Marvel is, in actuality, a 10 year- old boy.

      *I don’t know why they call him Shazam in the game. Probably a licensing thing.

      • busterggi

        Its a copyright thing from when DC sued Fawcett back in the ’40′s & ’50′s driving them out of the comic book business after which DC bought all those characters they supposedly didn’t want published. Marvel Comics however popped up a few years later with its own, very different Captain Marvel. Basically DC screwed themselves.

  • Kingasaurus

    Yes, of course if superheroes engaged in the kind of behavior God shows in the Bible, we’d think it was ridiculous and hardly heroic.

    But what about the corollary? What if superheroes behaved the way we are told God behaves not in the Bible, but in the modern world instead. You know, the God that conveniently hides all the time and never actually seems to, uh, do anything?

    Imagine a bank robbery is being committed and the citizens beg Superman to stop the perpetrators and return the money. And he says, “Well, I hate criminals and I’d love to stop that robbery. Crimes make me feel very sad. But that would interfere with the bank robbers ‘free will’, you see. I’d love to use my formidable and god-like powers to help you, but I just can’t. If you catch them yourself, good for you.”

    How insanely stupid is that? How completely useless and morally bankrupt would such a ‘superhero’ be?

    • SeekerLancer

      You mean this Superman?

      http://superdickery.tumblr.com/image/29235780203

      Yeah, I can see that.

    • Ahab

      You know what the kicker would be? If people justified Superman’s inaction by saying, “Oh, but he was suffering alongside you the whole time. His heart breaks whenever people lose their life savings after a bank robbery.”

    • C Peterson

      How insanely stupid is that? How completely useless and morally bankrupt would such a ‘superhero’ be?

      Well, yes. But you left of the kicker. This “superhero” makes it perfectly clear that, in spite of his own inaction, he will still personally fuck over, forever, anybody who refuses to totally worship and love him.

  • busterggi

    If ignoring evil is godlike then the folks who watched Kitty Genovese being murdered deserve as much worship as Yahweh.

    • http://twitter.com/fmitchell Frank Mitchell

      Urban legend to the contrary, people weren’t standing around watching Kitty Genovese being murdered. Various witnesses saw or heard various parts of the attack; each witness saw something suspicious or even alarming but didn’t intervene or call authorities. The real tragedy isn’t some aberrant or inhuman behavior peculiar to those people; it’s ordinary people seeing something odd and dismissing it as “probably nothing” or “not their business”. It’s what we do every day, often without realizing it.

      Supposedly omniscient deities, naturally, don’t get that excuse.

  • Baby_Raptor

    The only way basis one has for calling God good is buying said God’s (supposed) own words that he’s good, and that he’s so different from us we just have to trust that our own morals are “fallen” and “sinful” and that he’s really right.

    That’s how you get to “genocide is justified when God does it.” Or aborting a child that will live a few pain-filled hours after birth and then die is a heinous crime, but creating an entire species that will ultimately burn in eternal torture just because you prefer willing worshipers is “life” and “love.” The list goes on.

  • Ida Know

    The Doctor (in Doctor Who) isn’t a superhero per se, but I once saw a comment about reasons why he is better than God/Jesus. The main ones I remember are along the lines of:

    While not omnipotent or omnicient, the Doctor is amazingly powerful and intelligent, and in some aspects almost godlike. But he doesn’t judge you, and you don’t have to pray to him or believe in him in order for him to save you. In fact, he hates being fawned over and saluted, and he certainly doesn’t want money or gifts.

    The Doctor saves you because he believes in your potential and capacity for goodness, while Jesus supposedly saves you from your inherent worthlessness and evil.

    And the Doctor has a great sense of humor and wears cool clothes. Jesus, not so much.

    • http://twitter.com/docslacker MD

      And when th Doctor’s reputation grew to such an extent that the universe’s baddies feared the mere saying of his name, the Doctor erased any mention of himself from all databases/pretended to be dead.

      • Artor

        But he actually did come back when needed, as opposed to another fictional character I could name…

    • Tom

      If the doctor’s a god, I’d say he’s a particularly amiable instance of the trickster variety!

    • TheMechanicalAdv

      Ever read the New Adventures books? The Doctor does some pretty horrible things there. Given a chance, writers will turn any superhero into a monster.

      It’s a matter of wondering what happened before it was written that way. For example, maybe there was an Egyptian ritual of anointing the penis of first-born sons, and that year the oil had been contaminated with volcanic ash but the Pharaoh and his bureaucrats insisted on doing the ritual anyway, despite Moses’s warning.

      Disasters just happen; they’re not a punishment. But human stupidity can make them a lot worse. Not everyone needs to be an atheist to accept that.

      • Ibis3

        There was no death of first-born sons, no Egyptian captivity as portrayed in the Bible, and no Moses.

  • http://absurdlypointless.blogspot.com/ Tanner B James

    Anthropologically speaking super heroes and gods serve the same function, so there is no “more like” attribute.

  • Artor

    I read the Bible and came to the same conclusion as a teenager. WTF? This freak is a monster! Who the fuck could ever call this thing good?!? Consequently, I lost all respect for anyone who insisted that yes, god is good, god is great. They all sound exactly like the Talibanistas chanting, “Allah is great! Death to all who defy him!!!”

  • Cyril Jones-Kellett

    It seems as though many people posting here do not really understand what the Bible is. The ancient people did not have an instantaneous understanding of who God is. They had an ongoing relationship with God in whcih they began to understand who he was over hundreds and thousands of years. Many of the earliest writings in the Bible attribute to God qualities and acts which reflect a more primitive undestanding of the person they were relating to.
    To understand what they meant when they called God “good” one has to understand the carpiciousness attributed to the many gods of the surrounding cultures. The Jews came to see that their God was not capricious, that he was primarily interested in justice, and that he was the creator and giver of all good things. He was, in short, good.
    At the time of these insights, they were world-transforming. They enabled a kind of cultural development that the world had never seen. I am not a Jew, but the Jewish faith in God as good is the first instance in human history of people throwing off superstition and affirming the goodness both of the creator and of creation.
    Why do you think Jews have always made such good scientists? Could it have something to do with the powerful Jewish mental habit of anti-superstition rooted in their belief that God and God’s creation are good?

    • Kingasaurus

      They claim an “ongoing relationship”, but I say the Hebrew idea of God evolves and changes over time because it is just like any other idea that humans made up. They aren’t getting an increasing understanding of a real being outside of themselves, even though that’s what god-believers claim. It’s the excuses believers give when god seems to behave badly – “That’s just ancient people not understanding him fully yet.” Uh huh.

      The argument here is with people who think god exists, is perfect, and never changes. So if he seems to behave in immoral, incoherent or contradictory ways, it makes sense to point that out. Once pointed out, such information can be used as evidence that the Hebrews made up their god, just like every other human society on Planet Earth.

      Is Abrahamic monotheism culturally important? You bet. We just feel like taking these absurd ideas about “god” to their logical conclusions, because such things are just another indication (among many) that the guy doesn’t actually exist.

      • Cyril Jones-Kellett

        But how do you know how such a God behaves? My sense of the conversation was that people were relying on the Bible. To do so without understanding what the Bible is makes the arguments against God sort of content-less.

        • Kingasaurus

          If the Bible says that this “god” said or did certain things, either he exists and it happened, or he doesn’t exist and it didn’t happen. You could go your own way and say a god exists but this Bible thing is problematic when it comes to figuring out who he is and what he did or didn’t do – but that’s just a rabbit-hole with no end in sight.

          Argue with other religious believers about what the Bible “is”, and when you all get your story straight about this scribal inkblot test, get back to us and we’ll discuss it, I guess.

          Again, there’s good reason to think that Yahweh is just a cultural idea of Jews, in the same way Osiris was just a cultural idea of Egyptians. If you want to claim more than that, put your cards on the table.

          • Cyril Jones-Kellett

            This Two points in reply:

            1) Even if Yaweh were just a cultural creation of the Jews, the fact that Yaweh became part of human history was transformative in enormously positive ways. If he is a fiction, he is the most important fiction ever created.

            2) This statement is an error: “If the Bible says that this “god” said or did certain things, either he exists and it happened, or he doesn’t exist and it didn’t happen.” The vast majority of Christians and Jews throughout history have NOT read the Bible this way. They have read, and today do read, the Bible as a collection of books in many differnt styles and modes. You do not read poetry the way you read history the way you read a letter the way you read philosophy. And the Bible contains all these modes and more. You seem to reduce the Bible to a simple either/or because you want to pretend that those who disagree with you are simpletons. That is the sign of a closed mind, not a freethinker.

            • Kingasaurus

              “1) Even if Yaweh were just a cultural creation of the Jews, the fact
              that Yaweh became part of human history was transformative in enormously
              positive ways. If he is a fiction, he is the most important fiction
              ever created.”

              Top 5, certainly. Still fiction. Transformative in negative ways, too. How much so is up for debate.

              I’m perfectly aware how non-fundamentalists read the Bible, thank you very much. I find it fascinating in the same way Shakespeare or Homer is. I just don’t pretend it tells us anything important about a presumed supernatural, no matter how one reads it. It’s an extremely influential and fascinating book written by humans. That’s all.

    • allein

      In what way can a mode of thinking “rooted in” a belief in an invisible being who does terrible things for “good” reasons we just can’t comprehend be considered “anti-superstition”?

      • Cyril Jones-Kellett

        I do not think that a Jew would tell you that is what he or she believes. To respect the Jews properly you should not re-frame their beliefs so polemically. Superstition is the idea that one can gain power or protection from the spirit world through the use of ritual. The Jews refused to beleive this because they beleived the world is good and that it is made by a good God. They were the first people to rise above a superstitious effort to control the world through magic, etc.
        The Jewish prophet Micah summed it up beautifully when he wrote, “what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and
        to walk humbly with your God?” Also, Rabbi Hillel said of the Law of God, “Do not do to others what is hateful to yourself. The rest is comentary.”

        • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

          I disagree with you. Belief in God is itself a superstition- a common one in today’s world, but still just as ridiculous as knocking on wood or tossing salt over one’s shoulder to ward off bad luck.

          It may be a more sophisticated superstition- I grant that prayer is less impressive looking and sounding than rituals with candles and incense and magic words and such. I really wouldn’t elevate it that much, though, because it’s still belief in an irrational, untestable being. Asking an invisible sky wizard to do magic for you instead of trying to do it yourself is not a great leap away from superstition.

          Micah and Hillel said some great things. As a philosopher, I really like what I’ve read of Hillel. That doesn’t make Judaism true, just means that it spawned some great guys. Jesus, if he existed at all, was probably a pretty swell dude too, but I certainly don’t think he was the son of God or anything like that. What does what Micah and Hillel say have to do with the (non)existence of God?

        • allein

          Superstition is the idea that one can gain power or protection from the spirit world through the use of ritual. The Jews refused to beleive this because they beleived the world is good and that it is made by a good God. They were the first people to rise above a superstitious effort to control the world through magic, etc.

          How is an invisible, immaterial being that somehow controls the world not “magic” or part of the “spirit world”? And correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t a lot of Jewish practice centered around rituals intended to make God happy?

          • Cyril Jones-Kellett

            Recently some physicists have posited that the universe created itself out of nothing. I think they are wrong, and that the idea of nothing turning itself into something is magical thinking.
            But it is the position they have reasoned to, and though it seems obviously false to me, it does not seem obviously stupid or supertitious. People can have ideas I disagree with without being stupid and superstitious. I do not need to call people names to disagree with them on a philosophical point. I am convinced by the arguments about the difference between necessary and contingent being (and by other things) that a creator God exists. I can justify that belief and explain it reasonably. That makes it a justified belief, which is a different animal than a superstition.
            The fact that you need to demean those who disagree with you weakens your argument and suggests that your beliefs are more emotional than rational.

            • allein

              Where did I call anyone names or demean anyone?

              • Cyril Jones-Kellett

                Maybe you didn’t. I kind of lost the thread of who I was answering at some point. I apologize for implying that you had.

                • allein

                  Thank you.

            • Glodson

              Recently some physicists have posited that the universe created itself
              out of nothing. I think they are wrong, and that the idea of nothing
              turning itself into something is magical thinking.

              Let’s stop right there. This isn’t something we’ve just posited. This is a thing. It exists. We have proof of this occurring. This is a fundamental property of the Universe. Empty space isn’t empty as on a short enough time scale, virtual particles can come into being. This will provide a short overview.

              This process is known. This process is one of the problems we have incorporating gravity. These particles are also a part of the Cashimir Effect, and even a part of the Hawking Effect. It is based on this that we have the idea of something from nothing.

              However, you are misrepresenting the Big Bang. The Singularity could have just existed. We don’t know. There’s the idea that the Universe itself is the Ultimate Free lunch, but that’s different. And there’s some who hold that the singularity did indeed come to exist at the Big Bang. However, all this is based on our understanding of the physical laws we’ve studied and experimented with.

              These are not ideas that just popped into our heads, or we assume. These are ideas based on the physical reality we observe, and we try to experiment to find the details.

              This is not magical thinking. This is not the same as your persistent belief in god. This is a result of experimentation.

              • Cyril Jones-Kellett

                I am sure you are aware that “empty space” is not the same thing as “nothing.” And the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle offers us no help if we believe that something can come from nothing.

                I do not know what caused the Big Bang, nor do you.

                The point is that I said nothing about the Big Bang or empty space or any of this.

                I referred to the belief that the universe could emerge from nothing, which is impossible. Nothing cannot, at any point, become something.

                Empty space? Sure. But empty space is something, as Einstein made clear.

                To say that something can come from nothing is magical thinking, no matter how much Cashimir Effect your particles might be a part of, or even the Hawking Effect.

                Wrap your magical thinking in any language you want, but show me the proof if you want to claim that nothing can turn into something, Gandalf.

                Oh, and I have a perpetual motion machine I’d like to sell you. Interested?

                • Glodson

                  Ah, dishonesty just before I went to bed. How nice.

                  I am sure you are aware that “empty space” is not the same thing as
                  “nothing.” And the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle offers us no help if
                  we believe that something can come from nothing.

                  Empty space is as close to nothing as one can get in this universe. But I want to remind you what you wrote.

                  Recently some physicists have posited that the universe created itself out of nothing. I think they are wrong, and that the idea of nothing turning itself into something is magical thinking.

                  You didn’t mention the Big Bang by name, but if they are talking about the origin of this universe, they are talking about the Big Bang. The idea that something arises from nothing in physics is just what I explained to you.

                  So… you either don’t understand this, or you think that you can blatantly lie and misrepresent things. Both are possible. Even both at the same time.

                  I referred to the belief that the universe could emerge from nothing, which is impossible. Nothing cannot, at any point, become something.

                  And yet, it does. As I explained. And if you are talking about the origin of the universe and modern cosmology, you are talking about the Big Bang. Kind of hard to not talk about the Big Bang in cosmology.

                  To say that something can come from nothing is magical thinking, no matter how much Cashimir Effect your particles might be a part of, or even the Hawking Effect.

                  Word salad. Entirely devoid of meaning. And a bald assertion. It is based on evidence and experimentation. The only dodge you have is to say “oh, I’m not talking about that nothing.

                  I do not know what caused the Big Bang, nor do you.

                  Never said I did. Not germane to this discussion. But the fact that we don’t need god to explain the universe is not a good sign for god. The fact that we don’t need an outside agency for any of this to make sense is bad for a creator god.

                  Wrap your magical thinking in any language you want, but show me the proof if you want to claim that nothing can turn into something, Gandalf.

                  Poof.

                  Of course, you’ll make a nonsensical quibble. Effectively nothing, produced something. That’s why empty space isn’t so empty. An increase in encryption strength because of the vacuum effect.

                  Oh, and I have a perpetual motion machine I’d like to sell you. Interested?

                  Was this supposed to be wit? It doesn’t work as one of us is actually talking about processes that occur in the physical world, based on our understanding of physics. And since you are proving to be quite thick, it isn’t you that is doing so.

                • Cyril Jones-Kellett

                  OK, so we agree that “empty space” is very definitely not the same as “nothing.”

                  I think, however, we are not using the word “universe” in the same way. By universe I mean all of nature. You seem to mean “universe” in the sense of a particular reality, perhaps as people mean the word when they speak of our universe as a product of the collision of branes or some similar event.

                  If, for a moment, you will allow me to speak of “universe” as meaning “all of nature” perhaps we will agree that everything cannot have emerged out of nothing. That is impossible.

                  It is either the product of a supernatural being or it is simply an unexplainable fact.

                  When anyone, no matter how gussied-up their language and no matter how much they pretend that things like “An increase in encryption strength because of the vacuum effect” are anything other than speculation about an event that, even if it turns out to be real, is not tantamount to creation, says that nothing can produce something, they are engaged in magical thinking. I said it. I meant it. And now I have explained it without calling you Gandalf.

                  Good day, sir,
                  Sauron.

                • allein

                  Wrap your magical thinking in any language you want, but show me the proof if you want to claim that nothing can turn into something, Gandalf.

                  Oh, and I have a perpetual motion machine I’d like to sell you. Interested?

                  Yesterday you chided me for calling names and demeaning people, when I did no such thing, and now you are doing exactly that. Don’t be a hypocrite.

                • Cyril Jones-Kellett

                  I have a hard time stopping myself. I just am a hypocrite. I’m sorry I called the guy who tried to hide his magical thinking under a thick layer of sciencey language Gandalf.

                  That was mean.

                  You are good at calling bullshit. I sometimes forget how full of shit I am. Thanks.

    • busterggi

      ” The ancient people did not have an instantaneous understanding of who God is.”

      Ya know, an omnipotent god could have corrected that immediately.

      • Cyril Jones-Kellett

        The question is not what an omnipotent God could do, but what he chose to do.

        • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

          Mysterious ways, eh? Man, I’m embarrassed that it’s a Jew bringing up such crappy arguments this time :(.

          If God’s mysterious ways include allowing/encouraging genocide, rape, incest, religious wars, and slavery, fuck him. He either couldn’t do anything about it (not omnipotent) or chose not to (not omnibenevolent). Neither is worth worshiping,

          • Cyril Jones-Kellett

            You find it an embarassing argument to say that the God of the universe might be difficult for a person to understand? You find it embarassing to argue that God might have the freedom to choose the Jewish people? Why? Why can’t God be both free and beyond my understanding?
            Your problem with God seems to be that he has allowed bad things. Lots of people have that same problem. Pope Benedict was asked what he would ask God upon meeting him face to face once said he would ask, “Why did there have to be so much suffering?”
            Believers and non-believers share that question. But to pretend that the question disqualifies a loving and benevolent God is to miss a great deal of the best philosophical thinking throughout history. Sorry you are missing out on that.

            • Kingasaurus

              “You find it embarassing to argue that God might have the freedom to
              choose the Jewish people? Why? Why can’t God be both free and beyond my
              understanding?”

              Since the idea of god is just made up, he can be “free” to do anything you can think of, because you never need any evidentiary backup to demonstrate any of this. You just baldly assert it. Just because god could hypothetically do anything doesn’t mean he HAS actually done anything. Again, claims are thrown around thick and heavy, evidence not so much.

              God also supposedly has the freedom to turn asteroids into popcorn, or me into an elephant. That this invisible guy never does any of these things (or anything else less impressive that we can detect) should be a red flag that we’re dealing with a fictional character that only exists in the heads of human beings.

              People claim to know all kinds of things about this “god”, until difficult questions come up. Then he’s all mysterious and ineffable. Convenient.

              • Cyril Jones-Kellett

                There are things that you believe in that you cannot fully explain, and these are just things. For example, you believe that Einstein’s theories of relativity are correct, but neither you nor anyone else can explain why they are correct. Most people believe them and do not even know what they are about.
                It is common to believe things that you cannot fully explain.
                Now, of course, if one believes in God, one does not simultaneously have to explain every detail about God. That would be silly, like asking you to explain gravity. You cannot do it. But you have good reason to believe in it.
                Everything is mysterious and ineffable if you go far enough in your study of it
                So why should it surprise anyone that people who believe in God do not go around trying to say they know everything about God.
                The more relevant points is whether belief in the God of the Bible is just silliness. And, obviously, it is not.

                • Kingasaurus

                  “But you have good reason to believe in it.”

                  What’s yours? Let’s cut to the chase.

            • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

              Why would a God that wanted to be worshiped choose to do actions (or inactions) beyond the limited understanding of his audience? That doesn’t seem very smart. Even I, with only some tutoring and editing experience, know to tailor my teaching to my audience.

              • Cyril Jones-Kellett

                You seem to answer your own question here. Just like a good parent, God does not try to teach everything at once, but teaches over time in the context of a relationship.

                • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

                  If parents taught things by letting/encouraging their children to kill kittens, I’d call them pretty shitty parents, actually. I’d also call CPS and try to get the kids removed ASAP.

                • Cyril Jones-Kellett

                  But you are making my point. God never did ask anyone to kill a kitten or commit any act of brutality. It took a long time for the Jews to understand what God was teaching them. But they did come to understand. They produced people like the Prophet Micah and Rabbi Hillel. The Bible clearly shows this progress in understanding. It tells the story of a people gradually coming to understand who the God of Abraham really is — even if Abraham himself didn’t understand.

                • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

                  1) I have never, ever heard that interpretation before, not even from my Orthodox relatives. I think it might not be as widespread as you think it is. It’s certainly not the One and Only Jewish interpretation of Torah and the Tanakh as a whole.

                  2) What kind of moral entity sits back and watches the people ze is responsible for commit atrocities and does nothing to stop them? Heck, encourages and orders them to do so in plain language? God clearly tells the Israelites to commit genocide and mass murder on multiple occasions (Ezekiel 9:5-7, Joshua 6:20-21, Joshua 8:1-29, Exodus 32:26-29, Jeremiah 50:21-22, Judges 1:1-8, to name just a few), and sometimes gets mad that they weren’t murderous enough (1 Samuel 15:1-29). How did the Israelites misunderstand God, when ze is clearly commanding they murder everybody? What lesson is God trying to teach here? I picked murdering kittens as an example because it is less evil than the things God has commanded people to do.

                • Cyril Jones-Kellett

                  I see your point. Murdering kittens is a less evil analogy than these examples you point to. Granted.

                  But the interpretation of scripture that I point to is perhaps more widespread than you think.

                  The Catholic Church, with more than a billion members, teaches that the scriptures are inerrant in teaching what their author’s intend to teach. That is to say, if the author says that God is above the firmament, we do not have to believe what the ancient Jews believed about the firmament to get the point — that God is above all things.

                  We know that the skies do not contain what the ancient Jews thought they contained, but that is not what the author was intending to teach, so we accept that the author put in the terms of his day something that we have to understand in the terms of our day.

                  When the Scripture says that Adam lived to be nearly 1,000 years we are free to believe that the author was trying to teach about Adam as a blessed person by saying that. (The ancient people equated long life with blessing.) We do not have to literally believe that Adam lived for centuries.

                  So, in the historical books, we do not have to take literally all that they say because ancient modes of telling history were not scientific in the way modern history is.

                  In other words, we do not believe that God ordered genocide. We believe that the authors were using the historical books to teach lessons. Those lessons MUST be understood in the context of the whole history of the Jews and of the whole of Scripture.

                  One of the lessons they teach is of the Jews being led from violence toward forgiveness, as is clearly seen in stories like that of Joseph forgiving his brothers.

                  When one sees the Scriptures for the complex documents they are — full of human drama and even human error, but also full of the inspiration of God leading people away from violence toward forgiveness — one gets away from the temptation to see God as just a crazy nutcase, and comes to see him as patiently revealing himself to the Jews over many centuries.

                  And this is not some crazy copout way of reading Scripture. This is the way that most believers in most of the world read the Scripture. I know it is the long-time official teaching of Orthodoxy and Catholicism, for example.

                  Biblical fundementalism is a dead end, and a minority. And I agree with those who say it tends toward an understanding of God that is bizarre. But a fair reading of the Bible reveals a God who is just and merciful and asks only that people love goodness, do justice, and walk humbly with him. (Micah, again.)

                • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

                  Nonono, not “we”. “You” do not believe that. And this crazy word aikido of saying that the plain text doesn’t mean what it says it means negates any possible meaning in it.

                  “Go kill those guys” doesn’t really go kill those guys. It means, what? Violence is bad, but those murders never actually happened, so it’s a purely metaphorical massacre? God says he approves of the massacres, but really, he doesn’t, he just says he does to teach us that we can’t trust a word he says? God’s also totally not ok with slavery, just gave a bunch of order about how slaves have to obey their masters and rules for how to treat slaves, so that … why did he do that, exactly? My D&D rules-lawyer, CX debate trained brain still can’t figure out a way to weasel out of that one.

                  There isn’t any sort of narrative arc of the sort you describe. Joseph forgives his brothers before a lot of the genocide, so in that sense isn’t it a book about how God led people from forgiveness to violence? Sure, Biblical inerrancy is a pretty silly idea and clearly disproven by many factors. But your way of reading the Bible, as completely erasing all problematic lessons, morals, and incidents, is equally invalid. People don’t write stories like that, and they don’t celebrate massacres with singing and dancing and feasting in stories when the lesson of the story is don’t kill people. People don’t get rewarded for genocide in stories if the lesson is genocide is bad. The teachings you describe are completely absurd.

                • Cyril Jones-Kellett

                  You have your chronology wrong because you have confused stories about earlier events with stories that were written first. The story of Joseph is clearly a later development than many of the stories in the historical books.
                  Some of the stories in the historical books are very, very ancient and seem to have been handed on for a long time orally before ever being written down.
                  They CLEARLY have the marks of a more primitive understanding of God.
                  The other point that you are missing is that I did not say that the words in the Bible do not mean what they say, I just said that in order to grasp the Bible you must first of all grasp the intention of the authors.
                  The authors of the historical books, let me try this again, were not doing history the way modern historians do. They were telling stories that may well contain a great deal of history, but they are not anything like a modern history book. They mix in literary figures, exaggerations for effect, and other techniques of storytelling that are perfectly legitimate, unless you are trying to do modern history.
                  God never told anyone to commit genocide.
                  The Jewish understanding of God in its primitive form may well have been violent and have attributed to God acts and intentions that are not what the Jews later came to understand about God.
                  The Bible is the record of a very long relationship. It is not a scientific history of that relationship, but a collection of poems, histories, oral traditions, philosophy, etc., etc., etc., all of which were part of the relationship in its various stages. Long before Jesus said it, Jews understood that the whole of their relationship with God could be summed up in two sayings. Love the Lord God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength. And love your neighbor as yourself.
                  That understanding of their own mission made this little band from the ass end of empires into the most influential little people in all of history.
                  GO JEWS!

                • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

                  Joseph got sold into slavery, eventually became a wealthy Egyptian after interpreting dreams for Pharaoh and then reconciled with his family. The Israelites moved to Egypt. Several hundred years later, they were enslaved. More hundreds of years later, there was Moses and the exodus and the wandering in the desert. Then the 12 tribes, under the leadership of Joshua, went on a massive genocidal spree to claim the Promised Land.

                  Did I mess up that chronology? Because if I remember correctly, Joseph’s story clearly happened before all the mass murder in the Bible.

                • Cyril Jones-Kellett

                  Yes, as I said, your chronology is wrong because you confuse the order things happen in the Bible with the order in which the stories of the Bible were told and written down.

                  The stories of the historical books, though they come later in the “narrative arc” of the Bible, are earlier stories that were passed down orally for generations. They far predate the Babylonian exile, for example. While the story of Joseph, though it may well have ancient roots, bears the marks of writers who wrote LATER, around the period of the Babylonian exile.

                  That is not to say that the entirety of the historical books is ancient, just that parts are obviously ancient oral traditions.

                • Kingasaurus

                  And you know this how?

        • allein

          If he wants us to believe and worship him, why would he choose to make things so confusing?

          • Cyril Jones-Kellett

            Ask him. He will answer.

            • Kingasaurus

              LOL

              “Believe he exists first, then see if he’s there, and you’ll find out he is.”

              Is this one of your amazing good reasons?

              • Cyril Jones-Kellett

                What harm does it do to ask? That is not an argument or a reason, it is a suggestion. What possible harm could it do?

                • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

                  Have you seen what’s going in Israel? Women were harassed, threatened, and actually had things thrown at them for daring to pray to the same God the Haredi believe in, just in a way they didn’t like. Little girls get spat upon and heckled (I mean like 7 years old) for not being “modest” enough.

                  They still stone/burn/torture people accused of witchcraft to death in parts of the world. Access to contraception and abortion are increasingly limited in the US, thanks to belief in God. People commit murders and bombings because they think God told them to. Women are restricted from voting, from walking outside, from wearing what clothes they like, from living, because “Godsaidso”. That’s the real harm it does.

                • Cyril Jones-Kellett

                  So the fact that atheist govenments in China and North Korea are the worst human rights abusers in the world should convince me that atheism is bad?

                  Don’t be silly. Bad things done in the name of atheism are just bad things. You are not to blame for them, nor is your atheism. Bad things done in the name of religion, however…?

                  Seems like a double standard.

                • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

                  Those are not bad things done in the name of atheism. They’re done in the name of social harmony in China and in the name of Great Leader (and Eternal President and God) Kim Il-Sung and his designated successors, first Kim Jong-Il and now Kim Jong-Un. No one is committing atrocities in the name of atheism.

                  Besides, I’d argue that Saudi Arabia, Somalia, and the Congo have some pretty egregiously bad human rights violations as well. North Korea is pretty clearly right up there in the “worst” category, but China’s only in the “very bad” category with Russia, large chunks of ex-Soviet states, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and other pretty religious countries. Piety or lack thereof doesn’t seem to correlate very well with human rights concerns …

                • Cyril Jones-Kellett

                  OK, place China wherever you want. But these things ARE done every day in the name of atheism. China sends out atheist indoctrinators who “teach” religious people to give up their old ways. This teaching often involves violating the human rights of Tibetan Buddhists or Western Chinese Muslims, etc. The official state religion of China is atheism. Mao was a violent enforcer of atheism. Catholic priests still regularly disappear in some of the more rabidly atheist provinces.

                  This is not an indictment of atheism, of course. You are not responsible for Mao. But it is a great injustice to the millions who suffer in China to ignore that human rights violations are still daily committed in the name of state-approved atheism.

                  And besides, think of all the Soviet atheism, or the official atheism of Albania, of the entire Eastern Bloc. These are very real things that happened and resulted in horrible abuses, tortures, murders of Jews, Christians, Muslims. All in the name of state atheism.

                  Just google “Religion in the Soviet Union” sometime and tell me no evils are done in the name of atheism.
                  You cannot be serious.
                  Bad things done in the name of atheism do not make atheism in itself bad, and the same holds true with religion.

                • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

                  The Soviet Union, while atheist in name, was actually a giant personality cult devoted to Stalin and then other heads of state. You may not have read other threads, but replacing God with a charismatic God-like figure as your head of state and encouraging a cult of personality around hir is, um, explicitly not atheist.

                • Cyril Jones-Kellett

                  No. It may be implicitly not atheist, but the Soviet Union was explicitly atheist. Look up the word “gosateizm.” It is one of the most vile words in human history, and it was used to murder and torture and rob millions of people.

                  I want to be clear. I do not think it is fair to blame all atheists for gosateizm. But you are being unjust if you say that these things were not done in the name of atheism. They were. And they were among the worst crimes of the 20th century.

                  Here is a simple truth, horrible crimes have been and continue to be committed in the name of atheism. I do not point this out to attack you, just to say that you should not apply a double standard when judging between religion and atheism.

                  Perhaps you will say that Soviet atheism was not true atheism. I will accept that. But then you must accept that murderous religion is not true religion.

                • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

                  I do not. Atheism is the disbelief in deities and the supernatural. Full stop. It has no other baggage or ideological requirements attached to it. A demand that you kill someone “in the name of atheism” is absurd. If you wanted to argue that the Soviet Union practiced explicit anti-theism, you’d have a case, but that’s not your argument.

                  Religion demands you believe in the supernatural and/or a deity. Further, it demands that if you believe in a deity, you have to do what that deity says. If God (or hir authority on Earth) demands you murder 20 puppies, the very idea of religion demands that you follow through. It is not false religion to do horrible things if commanded by God; it is true belief to do so. A demand that you kill someone “in the name of God” is reasonable if you accept religion’s premises.

                • Cyril Jones-Kellett

                  I am sorry, but I think you are being very unjust. The vision of the world remade “scientifically” was what motivated much of 20th century Marxism. The soviets murdered perhaps millions of religious people, took or destroyed their churches, and outlawed much of their religious activity. What happened in Albania was even worse. People did kill for this atheistic vision, and they did do it in the name of atheism.

                  It is a sad fact, but it is a fact.

                  I am sorry you will not permit the victims of these activities the dignity of even admitting that it happened.

                  I will leave you with just this, from the US State Department on contemporary China:

                  There was a marked deterioration during 2011 in the government’s respect for and protection of religious freedom in China. In the Tibetan Autonomous Region and other Tibetan areas, this included increased restrictions on religious practice, especially in Tibetan Buddhist monasteries and nunneries. Official interference in the practice of these religious traditions exacerbated grievances and contributed to at least 12 self-immolations by Tibetans in 2011. The repression tightened in the lead-up to and during politically and religiously sensitive anniversaries and events, such as the third anniversary of the protests and riots in Tibetan areas that began on March 10, 2008; the observance of “Serf Emancipation Day” on March 28; the 90th anniversary of the founding of the Chinese Communist Party on July 1; the Dalai Lama’s birthday on July 6; and the celebration of the 60th anniversary of the “peaceful liberation” of Tibet on July 19.

                  China only allows groups belonging to one of the five state-sanctioned “patriotic religious associations” (Buddhist, Taoist, Muslim, Roman Catholic, and Protestant) to register with the government and legally hold worship services. Other religious groups, such as Protestant groups unaffiliated with the official patriotic religious association or Catholics professing loyalty to the Vatican, are not permitted to register as legal entities. Proselytizing in public or unregistered places of worship is not permitted. Some religious and spiritual groups are outlawed. Tibetan Buddhists in China are not free to venerate the Dalai Lama and encounter severe government interference in religious practice. The government continued to severely repress Muslims living in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region and other parts of China. Crackdowns on Christian house churches, such as the Shouwang church in Beijing, continued. Chinese Communist Party (CCP) members are required to be atheists and are generally discouraged from participating in religious activities.

                • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

                  Oh, there are many victims of Soviet ideology. How is saying they weren’t killed in the name of atheism insulting their memory or dignity? Religion provided a challenge to unquestioned state power, so it was systematically targeted in both the Soviet Union and China. However, religion wasn’t targeted *in the name of atheism*, but rather as a challenger to Marxist-Stalinist or Maoist ideology.

                  You don’t seem to understand that it is not atheism, but adherence to a statist ideology, that led (and leads) to the atrocities and oppression in Communist nations. When nothing and no one are allowed to challenge the state, the idea of God and the message of many religions that God > state must be crushed. That is not, however, an inherent part of atheism, nor are people being oppressed in the name of there-is-no-God. They are being oppressed in the name of an ideology.

                • Cyril Jones-Kellett

                  But the ideology is explicitly atheist. Again, I do not mean to attack you, just to point out to you that these things are done in the NAME of atheism, which they clearly are.

                  Perhaps Mao and Stalin and Hoxha, et al, were misusing the term “atheism,” but you cannot seriously argue that they did not do what they did in the name of atheism.

                  If you said that to their face, they would laugh at you. They were proud to be constructing the world in terms of “atheism.” They declared it openly. Why do you deny this?

                  Of course they were wrong, just as religious people are wrong when they kill in the name of religion, but you cannot deny that they did it. Can you?

                • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

                  And I am telling you that you are wrong. Horrible things have been done by atheists to theists, but not in the name of atheism. I repeatedly and clearly deny that; people like Stalin or Mao did what they did in the name of power, state control, social harmony, or any number of non-atheist principles. Atheism was a secondary side-effect of their primary goal, not the primary goal itself.

                • Cyril Jones-Kellett

                  You did not look up the word “gosateizm,” did you.
                  I understand, it is a very painful reality to face.

                  These were horrible crimes, and they were done in the name of something you embrace. As the very famous atheist, Clive Barker said, however, one of the things we learned in the 20th century is that atheism is not always benevolent.

                  I am a Catholic, and I have to face the same reality, people have committed horrible crimes in the name of something I fully embrace.

                  History is messy. It is better to accept it than to lie to yourself.

    • Ibis3

      This is just so much bullshit. As an historian, I’m appalled by your ignorance. Try reading a book other than the Bible.

      • Cyril Jones-Kellett

        You have not made an argument here, just an insult. How is that helpful?

    • John

      If the Jews had an imperfect understanding of God, then that implies that some parts of the Bible are not true. And if some parts are not true, why should we assume any parts of it are true without proof?

      • Cyril Jones-Kellett

        Moat Christians accept that some parts of the Bible are not true. Only a minority of Christians claim absolute “unerrancy” for the Bible. The vast majority beleive that the Bible is unerrant in what its authors intend to teach.

        • http://www.flickr.com/photos/chidy/ chicago dyke

          i’m hoping the vast majority can spell better than you.

        • allein

          But they can’t even agree on what it “intends”…

          • Cyril Jones-Kellett

            No, of course they can’t, any more than historians can agree on what Abraham Lincoln “intended” with the Emancipation Proclamation. Catholics and Orthodox (the vast majority of Christians) say that finding the intention of the authors must be done in connection with the living church, including bishops. But that does not obscure the main point that very few Christians are biblical fundementalists.

            • allein

              Calling it “inerrant” is pretty useless when everyone thinks it means something different.

    • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

      Bahahaha! I did grow up Jewish, and one of the first things we learn is God is Not Nice(tm). He’s actually a dick, but he’s ours. He picked us, we’re the chosen people, and it sucks in a lot of ways but has some perks too. I mean, yeah, we’re going to be persecuted and have to follow all sorts of insane rules and deal with collective punishment, but God rewards the people who do follow the rules and if everyone follows them, there’s collective reward too. The survival of Judaism for approximately 3500-4500 years is seen as God’s love/desire to have captive worshipers. I’ve never heard any rabbi argue that God is all good though- God is jealous and vengeful (he says so himself!) and we don’t want to piss him off.

      EDIT: Also, Jews don’t claim God is perfect or never changes. I mean, in the Noah story, God says “oops, I overreacted there. See the pretty rainbow? That means I’m not going to do that whole global flood thing ever again”. God makes mistakes, and learns, in the Jewish stories.

      • Kingasaurus

        LOL

        Well, Christians believe the Flood story too, and still insist God is perfect and eternal. They just find a way to rationalize it so the Bible doesn’t actually mean what it plainly says. The Bible’s true until it can’t be, and then we pretend it means something else. ;)

        • Cyril Jones-Kellett

          You are referring to Fundementalist Christians who are a relatively small minority. They beleive in the total inerrancey of the Bible. Catholics, Orthodox Christians, and most other Christians around the world do not believe this.

          • Kingasaurus

            I’ve got news for you, bub…

            They’re not a “small minority” here in America. And the cherry-picking believers have no good reasons for us to think that the god of the Bible is any more ‘real’ than the fundamentalists do.

            • Cyril Jones-Kellett

              American Christians are only a small part of Christianity. And even in America, biblical fundementalists are not near being a majority. And of course there are good reasons for believing in the God of the Bible. To say there are no good reasons is lazy. Unless you beleive that millions and millions of people — including people like Martin Luther King and Sir Isaac Newton — have been unable to articulate any good reasons. Are they all just dupes who had no good reasons?

              • Kingasaurus

                Have you ever argued this before?

                A lot of smart and famous people believed in god, so there must be good reasons? Seriously?

                How many millions of ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans (among millions of others) lived their entire lives believing in the existence of gods that aren’t real? Even believers would agree that most humans who have ever lived believed in imaginary gods! They were completely convinced, though. Living without the gods was unthinkable. Insane. Thought they had good reasons, I’m sure.

                Oh, except you guys and people like you. You must ACTUALLY have “good” reasons, right? Are those reasons any better than anyone else’s reasons for their gods throughout the history of the human species? Does the fact that nearly everyone simply inherits their religious beliefs from family indoctrination give you a moment’s hesitation about the truth of your doctrines? It should.

                Your Middle Eastern desert god, who was once part of the Canaanite pantheon, is the real McCoy, right? Tell us your amazing, compelling reasons. If we’ve never heard them before I’d be stunned. These good reasons always seem to end up being quite lame, and only seem convincing to those who already agree with it.

                …and by the way, surveys stubbornly show that over 40% of Americans are strict creationists who agree that Genesis is literal history, and they ARE a majority in more than their share of places in America. Don’t hand-wave it away as if it isn’t a big deal. Get your facts in order.

                • Cyril Jones-Kellett

                  I didn’t say that belief proves anything, just that there are good reasons to believe, as is suggested by the many very good and smart people who have believed.
                  Do you believe that Martin Luther King had no good reason to believe in God?
                  You may not agree with his reasons, but you would not be so arrogant as to call him a fool, I think.
                  I did not know that %40 of Americans say they believe in the literal truth of Genesis. I would like to see how that question was worded in the survey. Can you give a citation?
                  And as to there being many false gods, so what? There are many false theories of biology, that does not mean that there is no such thing as a true theory of biology.
                  There are many false ideas about God. That proves nothing about God.
                  If he exists, then there are true things about him, and they are very likely not what we would expect, given our limited field of vision.
                  If he does not exist, then there are no true things to be said about him
                  Does he exist? There are many good reasons to say he does.

                • Kingasaurus

                  Citation here, among many other places:

                  http://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2013/04/10/latest-gallup-poll-on-u-s-acceptance-of-evolution-flatlined-as-usual/

                  Yes, MLK didn’t have a sufficient, justified reason to believe in god. Because nobody has ever demonstrated one.

                  I know Australia exists – the evidence is overwhelming, my belief is justified. God isn’t like that, and never has been.

                  There are many false ideas about God? Give us ONE true idea about god, and tell us how you know it.

                • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

                  I’ve met lots of people from Australia. Heck, I’ve been to Australia! The people there are quite nice, and they’re some of the best WoW players ever. There is an ugly racism underlying a lot of stuff there, though.

      • Baby_Raptor

        I have a Jewish acquaintance on the Slacktivist site who, when asked what the Jews would do if it turns out Jesus WAS the Messiah, said they would collectively sue God for breach of contract.

        It amused me to no end. The Jewish relationship to God is definitely an interesting one.

        • Alrixa

          They judged him about the holocaust and found him guilty.

        • Cyril Jones-Kellett

          Agreed. But you never meet a Hittite in New York, while millions of Jews still read their Scriptures and add every day to modern culture. It’s a pretty impressive story.

          • Baby_Raptor

            So there aren’t any people left in the world that could trace their ancestry back to the Hittites, or any of the other peoples that the Old Testament God ordered mass murders of?

            Is there proof of this somewhere too? Or are we just going on the fact that the scriptures say that God said to wipe them out?

            • Cyril Jones-Kellett

              I don’t think God said anything about wiping out Hittites, but I admit that I forget stuff rather easily. The point is that as the world’s cultures have undergone endless changes, the Jews have survived intact as a people from ancient times even to today. Pretty good for a sheep herding tribe with no particular reason not to be assimilated, except for their belief that they were chosen by God.

              • Kingasaurus

                The Chinese are still around, too. What does that say about them, if anything? The assumption that this or that ethnic group still exists because there’s some invisible and undetectable super-mind looking out for them really stretches credibility. Human history shows a lot of “impressive” things. Does an invisible friend get credit for all of the things we deem “impressive,” or just the one impressive thing that Jews and their religion aren’t completely extinct?

                • Cyril Jones-Kellett

                  China is a massive, multi-cultural society, it is not a little tribe that survived the constant changes and pressures of the ancient middle east right into the modern world. And I never said the story of the Jews proved anything. I just said it is a great story. And it is!

                • Kingasaurus

                  Don’t backpedal. Admit you think the reason Jews are still around is because God exists and he wants them to persist. Just be honest, come on.

                • Cyril Jones-Kellett

                  Yes. I admit that, and also that the Jews survive because their belief in God gives them a reason to survive.

                  How did I backpedal? We were not previously talking about my personal beliefs.
                  I freely and enthusiastically admit that I believe that the God of the Jews is the One, True, and Living God, creator of all.

          • Sids

            And in 20BCE you’d never have met a Christian in Rome, while millions of Romans venerated their pantheon of gods every day. It’s a pretty impressive story.

            The same story has gone on throughout history. Religions start, and religions die. What makes you think there’s any more to Judaochristian beliefs than any other?

      • Cyril Jones-Kellett

        You may have grown up Jewish, but you do not understand Judaism or its teachings. It is, in fact, common to Judaism to call God good. And many Jewish philosophers and rabbis (See moises maimonides) have taught powerfully on the perfections of God.

        • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

          I beg to differ. Jews come from all walks of life and have all sorts of relationships with God. I’m now an atheist, but when I did believe, it was a somewhat irreverent belief (if that even makes any sense). God’s clearly said and done some pretty awful shit in the Bible, and the way my rabbis and teachers helped us understand it was to say that God made mistakes, learned over time, and was both jealous and vengeful but could also be loving if we did what he said (yes, it was very abusive-relationship-y, but I didn’t realize that until later). Following the rules of Torah and Talmud, ignoring the bad stuff, and being a good person were emphasized over thinking about the actual character of God; the claim that he was good was made, but it’s really not very justifiable and I never paid it much credence.

          So yeah, some Jewish philosophers may teach on the perfection of God. They’re just as wrong as any Christians arguing the same thing and for much the same reasons. More importantly, that wasn’t part of the Jewish education I got growing up; we all do it differently, and that’s ok. Remember, 5 Jews, 10 opinions!

          • Cyril Jones-Kellett

            not change the fact that Jews have throughout history beleived that God is good. That is a core Jewish belief.

            • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

              No, Jews believe the world is good. That is the core belief. That God is good is not a core belief and is plainly contradicted by the Torah alone, let alone the rest of it. God being all-powerful is a core belief, for sure, and God being not-evil is definitely part of it. But all-good and perfect? Nope, not there.

              • Cyril Jones-Kellett

                “Therefore they (Israel) shall come and sing in the height of Zion, and shall flow together to the goodness of the LORD…” from the Prophet Jeremiah, would you like a few more?
                It is a core Jewish belief that God is good.

                • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

                  We can argue about this all day, you know, and won’t do anything other than run in circles. There is definitely a strong strain of God-is-good running through Judaism, but there’s an equally strong strain of God’s-a-jerk. I have not and will not argue that some Jews don’t argue God is good. I merely disagree with them. Theological disputes are our bread and butter- Hillel and Shammai are famous for theirs. I do argue that not all Jews think God is good or consider it a core part of their Judaism; that has been my personal experience, and all the random Bible quotes in the world won’t change that.

    • Anat

      Belief in a creator is superstition.

      • Cyril Jones-Kellett

        That is demonstrably not true, unless you mean to redefine the word. Superstition has to do with a particular kind of belief. The Bible, for example, explicitly warns against superstition. You beleive there is no creator. That is how you answer the question of meaning. But that is not a superstition, it is a belief. Or, perhaps to make it simpler, you believe that Napoleon lived, despite never having seen him and having no direct evidence of his existence. That is a belief, but not a superstion. Belief in God is a justified belief, now whether it is a justified true belief is a matter for debate. We all live with many beliefs, soem justified, some not, some true, some not. But superstition is the particularr kind of belief that is related to the fear and manipulation of spiritual things. It is common among beleivers and non-believers. But it is not synonamous with belief.

        • allein

          Whether belief in God is “justified” is kind of the whole point of the argument between atheists and believers, is it not?

          • Cyril Jones-Kellett

            Not really. The whole point is whether God exists. Whether belief can be justified is a side point.

            Of course, there are some silly believers who think there is no justification for atheism, and there are some silly atheists who think there is no justification for faith.

            But those people are silly. Of course there are justifications for both beliefs. Smart people with rational arguments take both sides.

            “Justified” and “true” are not the same thing. Throughout life we have lots of justified beliefs that turn out not to be true.

            But it is pointless for me to argue to an atheist that there is no justification for her belief, just as it would be pointless for an atheist to argue to me, a Christian, that there is no justification for my belief.

            I know I would never want to be so rude to an atheist as to say — nothing justifies your belief, and I would think it rude (and laughably lazy) for an atheist to say such a childish thing to me.

            • allein

              Justified: Having, done for, or marked by a good or legitimate reason

              If we thought the reasons for believing were good or legitimate, we would be believers, would we not? I understand that believers have justifications for their beliefs; saying i don’t believe that the reasons are good is not being “childish,” it is disagreeing. If I don’t believe something is true, what justification am I to find for believing it?

              • Cyril Jones-Kellett

                Yeah, I think we’re kind of talking past each other. I am referring to the classical definition of “knowledge” as “justified true belief.” I know a lot of people no longer accept this definition. But I think the classical distinction between justification and truth is an important one. I can see that you are justified in your beliefs on some occasions even if I can also see that your beliefs are wrong.
                I know there are good reasons for atheists to believe what they do. But I am not an atheist.
                If someone tells me they believe that a teapot is orbiting outside the orbit of Mars, I would say they are wrong and there is no justification for their belief.
                If someone tells me there is no God, I would say they are wrong but there is justification for their belief.
                See?

    • Baby_Raptor

      D’you have a source for that claim? I can’t help but feel its bullshit.

      Further, look at the Christian god’s idea of “justice.” Look at the things he ordered. Look at all the crap he just sits and watches happen in the world. And look at the decisions he makes.

      If you can call any of that good, I don’t know what to tell you. The god of the bible did very few good things. Most of the saner, more reasonable laws from the book were practiced long before the Christian god was conceived of…They were stolen from surrounding cultures.

      • Cyril Jones-Kellett

        Not sure what you are referring to. Do you want an aswer to why God does what he does?

        • Baby_Raptor

          That the Jews were the first ever instance of a group of people acknowledging that their deity and their selves were good.

          • Cyril Jones-Kellett

            That’s not exactly what I said. But what I said was sort of incomplete. The Jews were the first people to have an account of creation as the intentional work of one, all-powerful, and good God.
            That is to say, they beleived in one creator God who made all things and made them to be good. (“… and God saw that it was good,” is the repeated refrain of one of the Jewish creation stories.)
            This was unlike anything that had ever happened or been thought of before the Jews. In most ancient accounts of creation the world is created by accident or by some violence or wierd sexuality of gods whose motives are mixed.
            The firm Jewish belief that God made the world on purpose and that both God and the world are good was, as I said, world-transforming.
            It is one of the most important intellectual events in world history.

            • Kingasaurus

              The Jews put their own spin on the Babylonian creation story where Marduk slew the chaos dragon. All very interesting stuff, and the new “spin” was defintiely a brand-new thing that was revolutionary in its own way.

              What it doesn’t show is that the God of the Hebrews was real and not a figment of their imaginations, just like every other god any culture has ever thought up. All this talk about revolutionary ideas and influence is secondary to the central claim.

              All new and influential ideas come from somewhere, and some group of people are always the first ones to think of it. Somebody has to be first, right? New ideas pop up continually, and many die out and some are preserved due to contingency and the vagaries of history. Doesn’t change the fact that there’s no good reason to believe it isn’t all fiction.

              Marduk is a fiction, Thor is a fiction, Osiris is a fiction…

              …and Yahweh and El-Elyon are fictions, too. Sorry.

              • Cyril Jones-Kellett

                It seems you are ready to admit that the God of the Bible has some good qualities (a brand-new thing that was revolutionary in its own way), and he may not be the silly joke that this post tried to imply. Godd for you. I know you don’t beleive in him. I am sorry about that. But at least you are no longer pretending that the God of the Bible is just a silly idea. He has been too important to history to be so easily and lazily dismissed. The idea of a good and just creator God is what made, over time, the modern world possible.
                When you see one, thank a Jew.

                • Kingasaurus

                  It’s a WRONG idea, which is reason enough to reject it. The fact that it is some improvement on other ideas which are also wrong isn’t much to argue in its favor.

                  Monotheism made the modern world possible? Sorry, don’t buy it. Just another assertion without evidence.

                • Cyril Jones-Kellett

                  Here is some evidence, modernity arose in the context of European Christianity and nowhere else.

                  Christianity gets its idea of God directly from the Jews.
                  It was the mental habits of European Christendom that set the very context for modernity to arise.
                  See Max Weber among many others on this rather obvious point.

                • Kingasaurus

                  It’s hardly obvious. The pagan Greeks invented both democracy and the scientific method. Should paganism get credit for both?
                  It’s pointless. In any case you’re arguing for the usefulness of a belief rather than its truth. I have little interest in that tangent.

                  Muslims get their idea of god from both Jews and Christians. How they doin’?

                • Cyril Jones-Kellett

                  Well, over the long term true ideas tend to be more useful than false. And the Muslims explicitly reject Judaism and Christianity. They do not accept either Christian or Jewish Scriptures. Christians accept the entirety of Jewish Scriptures.

                • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

                  You realize the Arab world was well on its way to modernity before the Crusades, right? European Christendom threw waves of zealous barbarians against the civilized, multi-cultural, scientifically advanced (for the time) Arabs and took them down into the Dark Ages. Because Arabia is naturally a desert, when the irrigation canals were broken and the desert spread, the people couldn’t regain lost agricultural ground and their civilizations broke down.

                  Then Christendom took many of the scientific and medical advancements of the Arab world and applied them in a much more congenial biosphere. It still took an awfully long time before modernity arose, though …

                • Cyril Jones-Kellett

                  “You realize the Arab world was well on its way to modernity before the Crusades, right? ”

                  No. This is not true. It is an assertion contrary to fact.

                  In fact, most current historical research on the emergence of modern science would contradict almost everything you wrote here. Would you like some citations?

                • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

                  Ok, before we get into this, can you tell me what you think modernity is? I really don’t want this to fall apart due to differing interpretations of a core concept.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-W-Busch/578120211 Michael W Busch

    I have difficulty calling many superheros “good” even as they act now.
    Batman? Lousy way of fighting crime, Mr. Wayne.
    Ironman? Why are you keeping life-saving technology to yourself, Mr. Stark? Bad for the business, too (same for Reed Richards).
    Superman? You could have helped transform society to the point that 80% of criminals never became criminals in the first place. Bad call.
    Etc.

    • Baby_Raptor

      Well, most superheroes have the excuse that they’re human. And also written characters, so they can’t be held over the fire for their faults.

      God? Not so much.

    • Justin

      This. Superheroes are usually pretty awful when one considers them at length.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-W-Busch/578120211 Michael W Busch

        Some are better than others. In general, the more powerful a superhero is, the more problematic the ethics of their actions are – because the opportunity cost of doing X rather than doing Y instead would be higher.

  • Jedgardee

    You reminded me of this from the British adult comic Viz. Perfect!

    http://mickhartley.typepad.com/blog/2007/12/supergod.html
    It’s not my blog by the way, just the first one I managed to find with the strip.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Sandy-Kokch/100000074576649 Sandy Kokch

    Why does Bain sound like Jimmy Stewart?

    An Evil Jimmy Stewart from an alternative universe?

    Is there a goatee beard under that cyclists breather mask?

  • Tak

    I’ve made the argument that if god didn’t tell us he’s supremely moral we wouldn’t know it in the past. Christians have answered me that since I didn’t have an answer to every moral question and since I was not able to describe (at the time) where morality comes from I had no grounds to say anything was moral or immoral. I have since taken classes in ethics, philosophy, and studied logic both in these classes and on my own. I topped it off with some world history and I now have my answers. The fact is those Christians were being lazy…it is not, as they told me, impossible to come up with an objective moral framework without god – it just takes Work, thought, and honest self examination. It is MUCH easier to say ‘god is mysterious’ than to either admit biblegod is not good or contort its obviously objectionable behaviors to make them good in this or that context.

  • http://www.last.fm/user/m6wg4bxw m6wg4bxw

    Fuck. When will I learn not to watch DarkMatter2525’s cartoons? They’re like Peep’s Marshmallow Bunnies. Somehow, despite repeatedly being irritatingly unsatisfying, I’m still tempted to try again.

  • Timmah

    BTW as some of us nerds were discussing earlier, there is no need to imagine what it would be like if superheros acted like gods as it’s been done very recently. (Spoilers: They would be murderous aholes)

    http://youtu.be/SmCLgAH2eVo


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