Why There Really Is No God – On the podcast Point of Inquiry, a half-hour interview with Edward Tabash. Edward Tabash is a constitutional and civil rights lawyer, and explains himself as one who grew up theistic. Growing up, he says he quickly realized that (for various reasons that he mentions in the interview) the God of the Bible relies on suspension of disbelief.
What caught my attention though was how Tabash explained the moral issues at hand:
…most of religion has been used not to promote greater harmony among humans, but to be divisive. Because of throughout human history the greatest motive for person-on-person violence has still been religious beliefs. If you look at Christianity, and you take Christianity literally, good works and good behavior are not necessary for salvation. If you believe in Jesus, that is sufficient. According to strict Christian doctrine, if Hitler had opted for Jesus a few minutes before dying, he would be in Heaven now, and all of his non-Christian victims in his concentration camps would be in Hell.
So Christianity, which is the dominant religion in the West, posits the most immoral kind of god and actually encourages people to only seek salvation through belief. They all say goodness alone won’t save you. Now the Bible is contradictory on this. Part of it says that good works is the only way to be saved, and the other says works are irrelevant, goodness is irrelevant, and only faith in Jesus will be the ticket to salvation.
Well I think it’s very dangerous to tell people that regardless of what they do to others, all they have to do is believe in Jesus, and they’re saved. Billy Graham, I remember even as a little boy hearing him, he used to always tell his audiences goodness alone won’t save you. Well if goodness alone won’t save you, and all you have to do is believe in an incoherent process where God was his own son and his own father, I question the kind of morality.
Also, if you look at the atrocities in the Bible, the Biblical God is guilty of some of the most horrible atrocities. In I Samuel, ordering armies to kill innocent children, or ordering captive women to be raped throughout the Old Testament. Everything that the God of the Old Testament does is horrendous, and in the New Testament, all he does is turn around and say regardless of anything else just believe in my son and you’re saved, or burn in Hell forever. So in the Old Testament we have this vicious, kinky, vindictive God with a morbid preoccupation with foreskins, and in the New Testament he turns around and burns people in a lake of fire forever. That to me is not much of fount of morality.
The more important question, is that if Biblical morality is true, it means that we human beings and our reflective ability are irrelevant, and all of our evolution, all of our development in ethics is irrelevant. And some ancient book with simplistic atrocities is what we have to go by and we can’t even use our human intelligence.
Tabash goes on to describe that virtually every atheist is more moral than the product of this strict Christian doctrine. He also goes further to say:
Our ethical achievements, our advances in human morality, are linked to how far distant we are from the Biblical code. The more society bases its laws away from the strictures of the Bible, the more moral, the more tolerant we become. If we observed the strict Biblical code, in the Book of Leviticus two gay men who make love together would have to be executed. An incorrigible child would have to be stoned at the gates of the city. And in the book of Deuteronomy, if someone even witnessed to you of a different religion, you’re supposed to kill them. So the only way that society has achieved a modicum of ethical and moral development is because we have abandoned strict Biblical principles.
I would have to agree – good works and deeds, our reflective intellects, our in-born sense of right and wrong, our development of ethics – that these constitute the foundation for greater morality, harmony, tolerance, peaceful coexistence, and better choices all around.
A better world, in short.
Have at it though – perhaps a case could be made for non-literalist/metaphorical liberal religious framework for morality. But how would fanciful metaphors for the human condition be better than abandoning the Bible (or other theist doctrines) altogether in favor of fact-based descriptions of the human condition? Why a metaphor at all?