God Is Love = Stupid Theology Part 1


God is love. (John 4:16)

Quite often these days I see religious folk posting quaint little blurbs like the above on the Internet.  It makes me really question whether they have thought through their beliefs–because if they post the above sound bite because they actually “believe” it–then all they have done is show how fallacious their beliefs really are. 

The above quote is not only a contradiction in terms–but it is also blatantly false. Only a person who has NOT taken the time to think about what the words are saying would be under the impression that the above sentiment is somehow agreeable. It’s not, for reasons we shall soon discuss.

So from now on I have decided to rebut stupid theology anytime I see it–in a series fittingly called Stupid Theology–just to show why its not only categorically wrong to hold such beliefs–but ultimately such types of belief(s) prove false. I suppose you could believe it if you so wished–but to me this would only amount to the tacit admission that the only reason you hold the [specious] belief at all is because the lie makes you feel good.

The above proclamation of faith found in the quaint, and brightly painted yellow, epigraph is designed to squash your doubt with a catchy apologetic rationalization. In order to show why it is patently false, however, we need to re-examine it line by line. Methodical, I know–but hey–that’s what using your brain is–hard work. Which is why people who post this stuff need to spend less time in the echo chambers of their faith–and spend a little more time thinking through their beliefs.

Sometimes I want to ask God why he allows poverty, famine, and injustice in the world when He could do something about it. But I’m afraid he might just ask me the same question.


Okay, so I broke the single sentence into two in order to better emphasize the clashing ideologies at play here. The first sentence is a secular humanistic response to the Problem of Evil (i.e., the Problem of Pain/Suffering as we find in the physical world). The Humanist thinks, if an all loving God truly did exist, then this suffering is inexcusable. Hence we must questions God’s integrity, concern, and sense of justice.

Of course the Problem of Evil is probably the most difficult theological obstacle any theist can ever face, so it seems suspect that it is purportedly answered in the following sentence. But pay extra close attention to what happens in the second line, because the apologetics at work shifts the burden and theodicy, or defending the goodness of God in the face of all the suffering and evil in the world, becomes the focus.

The fact that we are lead to believe that it is our responsibility to fix the ills of the world reflects the humanist sentiment behind the quotation–and I agree, it’s up to us to address the issues of poverty, famine, and injustice in the world–but the problem here is the second line redirects our focus from the fact that the quote is about God’s responsibility to act in accordance to his “all loving” nature. After all, according to believers, the Bible, and the theology, God is love.

So what of this love? Well, instead of doing anything about the ills of the world–God is content to ignore them. Hardly something a loving God would do. Especially one with the power to prevent such ills in the first place.

Yet it is this very realization which provides the negation to his “all loving” nature. We soon come to realize that there is a deeper problem we need to address concerning God’s conflicted nature. God’s assumed nature, according to religious belief, is likely to be false given the nature of the evidence. According to the evidence (i.e., the pain and suffering in the world), God can either be all loving or all powerful, but not both. We know this for the very reason that the idea of an “omnibenevolent and omnipotent” God willingly allowing evil (in any form) to exist is patently absurd.

God could be “all loving”–but not all powerful. That is, he might merely be unable to effectively change the natural order of things. This hardly sounds like the God believers profess an ardent faith in–it’s certainly not the God who created the universe and everything in it–it certainly can’t be the Orthodox God of Christianity.

So here’s the rub, if God was all loving and all powerful–then God must act in necessity (in accordance with his nature) to prevent evils such as starvation, famine, sickness, etc. Yet these things are, sadly enough, found in abundance. Also, because God (supposedly) has the power to create entire universes and everything in them, then we know God has (at the bare minimum) the power to effectively change the physical laws–i.e., change how pain and suffering affect living organisms–but his very refusal to do so shows that God cannot be all loving.

Thus we know God is NOT love.

As such, we are left with three possibilities as to what constitutes God’s true nature. 1) God is malevolent, or 2) God is indifferent, or else 3) there is no God.

The fact that the quote we are dealing with misdirects our attention from the issues of God’s obligatory necessity to prevent evil (according to his “all loving” nature) is an apologetic trick meant to shift the burden and make us feel guilty for the problem(s) which, technically speaking, are not our problems–if a loving God exists.

The fact is, humans are anything but “all loving.” But we are compassionate, so our conscience grows concerned when we see injustice, poverty, and needless suffering. This suggests we are morally superior to the God of theism, because we exhibit empathy where he does not.
 
Granted, there are some (overused) theistic rebuttals, e.g., rationalizations, the believer can fall back on when confronted with these prior set of objections. They can claim God works in mysterious ways, his mind is unknown to us, so who are we to question God?

Well, the answer to this rationalization is quite simple–we have the inescapable obligation to question such a God–because he explicitly allows for suffering which he should find as shocking, unsettling, and horribly unfair as we do–if he were at all a compassionate sort of person, such as we humans typically are.

[Of course, not all humans are compassionate, I get that. But most healthy human beings exhibit compassion as an inbuilt feature of being, well, human. We have evolved this way. As such, a loving God would undeniably have to, at the very least, exhibit as much compassion as we do in order to be considered at all loving.]

Moreover, we don’t need to know the mind of God to know that idly sitting by and doing nothing, simply letting injustice, suffering, and evil occur without so much as batting an eyelid is, not only wrong, but morally reprehensible!

Hence the apologetic ploy is to leave us feeling guilty when the question is (deliberately) reversed to question our inability (or refusal) to obey the imperative to prevent evil by having God ask us why we do nothing. Again, the message here is, ultimately, humanistic–God wants you to right the wrongs–because he can’t be bothered.

Ultimately, however, as I pointed out–it’s not our burden–if a loving God exists–because the imperative dictates it is God’s obligation to prevent evil, suffering, and injustice since it is his very nature to do so. 

[Coincidentally, this allows us to rule out the other oft raised rebuttal that God must allow for evil in order to realize the greater good–this makes no sense when God, being all powerful, could actualize the greater good without the allowance of even a bare minimum of evil. The free will defense, when used to explain evil, only shifts the goal posts further back–it doesn’t solve the problem of God’s imperative to prevent evil.]  

Thus, the fact that injustice, evil, and suffering do exist in the world is strong evidence that, contrary to John 4:16, God is NOT love.

Now here’s the kicker. Remember the three possibilities we are left with? To reiterate, God is either 1) malevolent, 2) indifferent, or 3) non-existent.

As such, keeping these three points in mind, when we re-examine the quote:

Sometimes I want to ask God why he allows poverty, famine, and injustice in the world when He could do something about it. But I’m afraid he might just ask me the same question.


What we are really asked to consider makes no sense whatsoever. 


First of all, if God is malevolent, then the reason he allows poverty, famine, and injustice is obviously because that is in accordance to what he wills. In other words, God desires there to be poverty, famine, and injustice.
 

Secondly, if God is indifferent, then the reason such things exist in abundance shows God simply doesn’t care to do anything about it–they exist–so what? No skin off God’s back. Deal with it.

Last but not least, if God is non-existent, then the quantity of evil we find in the world exists simply as part of the natural order, so it makes no sense to question something which isn’t even there–something that’s not real–but merely a figment of our imaginations. It is the equivalent of asking the Flying Spaghetti Monster why there is so much evil in the universe. It’s a ridiculous and absurd question to even posit–so much so that it’s downright delusional.
 
Thus the above religious sound bite is not only self refuting, but it is also a case of extremely stupid theology. 

Theists would be quick to realize this if they took even just one minute to think it through more carefully. But the fact that we can see such blurbs pop up all over the Internet is strong evidence that most theists haven’t thought long enough, or hard enough, about their beliefs. Subsequently, this goes a long way to explain why religious belief in God persists–presumably because the majority of believers have never taken the time to properly question, or adequately address, the speciousness of their cherished beliefs in the first place.

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2 comments

  1. Tldr, but still I have found some points I can elaborate on.
    The problem of evil has another twist to it, which is human free will. The god loves humans to a degree that he does not interfere with the freedom of choice he has created in them. As if, stripping any human of his free will is the most dehumanizing thing imaginable. Man without free will is not a man anymore, but a machine.
    Also, but that is my speculation only, one could say that evil is a humanly category, so only an event involving a human can be evil. This combined with the previous statement about free will could at least partly explain why god does not interfere in evils of the world.
    You are also forgetting another important aspect of god, which is his all-knowing. There are situations in which evil is clearly present, but interference of any sort would lead only to more evil. Knowing this result would lead again to not acting.
    And lastly, one perspective you do not take into account is that god lives by the laws that he created. This would mean, in short, that any way in which you would discard god is invalid (logically- try to find any fallacy in it!), but that is surely not acceptable for any nonchristian. So instead try to remember this the next time you try to understand your wife. You cannot solve the world by logic only. Logic works only in known systems. Real life is open systems with infinite variables. You have no exact science except math. None. Really.

  2. Sorry to wade in once again, and to such an old post, but i cant help myself but to write this down. The existence of god is evidenced in exactly the same way as many diseases in medicine. Through casuistics. There is a proverb saying that there is no science about the one, i.e. all science is statistics. Medicine goes against the grain and with great results is much closer to theology than one would have imagined.

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