Christian “Truth” in Shreds: Epic Takedown Number 7

…god really isn’t all that great 

Oft-repeated items from childhood stick in the mind. Our mealtime grace was “God is good, God is great, thank you for this food. Amen.” Full-blown, industrial strength, Sunday School naivety about religion. Drivel. I’m tempted now to ask, “What were we thinking?” —but of course we weren’t thinking at all. How is it even remotely possible that the creative force that (supposedly) runs the Cosmos requires/desires/appreciates being told by countless humans that he/she/it is good and great? What a useless idea. Moreover, instead of the word “God,” we could just have well have said “our food supply chain” is good and great. If you didn’t eat everything on your plate, the cliché we heard was, “Think of all the starving people in China.” If God is good and great, how could that happen? We were fortunate to have a well-functioning food supply chain.


With this kind of banality—god is great/good—Christian theology set itself up for failure from the get-go. It proposes and urges/demands belief in an omni-god: omnipotent, omniscient, and omni-benevolent: power, knowledge, and goodness at the highest levels imaginable. But when we look at life, here on the ground on Planet Earth, this combination of attributes cannot be sustained. They collide disastrously, rendering this theology incoherent. In fact, this god cannot possibly exist. Or, if he/she/it does exist, we’ve been cheated by the Cosmos: there’s a higher power trying to manage this mess? Sorry, that deserves an F grade. 


Or, as John Loftus puts it, “Rather than an omni-god, what we find

instead is an incompetent, ignorant, inept deity.” He states this at the opening of his essay, “The Abject Failure of the God of Creation, Revelation and Redemption,” in his 2021 anthology, God and Horrendous Suffering. He argues that god botched all three—creation, revelation, and redemption. 


Botched Creation


How can that possibly be? Christians nurtured on the sentimental hymn, This Is My Father’s World, savor the thought that “the morning light, the lily white, declare their maker’s praise. This is my father’s world. He shines in all that’s fair.” Maybe this makes them immune to the realities of nature. There is so much nonsense about creation itself being evidence of a god’s splendid talents; there is serious Christian myopia here. In once wrote an essay, The Easy Acceptance of the Very Terribly, about the tendency of devout folks to brush aside horrible events in nature. Humans are here on a planet that is so full of hazards: hurricanes, tornadoes, volcanoes, tsunamis, earthquakes, plagues. How can that possibly be construed as good planning by a competent creator?


In his essay, Loftus focuses on just one aspect of failed creation: the human body. In six pages he lists the major flaws in our bodies, beginning with the brain, which is so clearly the product of evolution, instead of a thoughtful designer. He quotes Gary Marcus, professor of psychology at New York University. Marcus has pointed out that the haphazard construction of the brain over aeons has adversely affects our behaviors: “If mankind were the product of some intelligent, compassionate designer, our thoughts would be rational, our logic impeccable. Our memory would be robust, our recollections reliable.” (p. 246)  


And how could a competent creator have left our brains susceptible to mental illness? We couldn’t begin to calculate the levels of misery and anguish that humans have suffered because of this affliction. Moreover, how could a good, all-knowing god not have eliminated the possibility of bad brains? Adam Lanza murdered the kids at Sandy Hook School, not because he “decided” to; Adolf Hitler engineered the Holocaust, not because he “decided” to (so let no one come to god’s defense by citing free-will). Badly damaged brains—which can be attributed to many different factors—were the cause. If we want to bring a god into the equation, the creator messed up badly.  


I want to mention briefly two other human-body mistakes that Loftus includes: Life Expectancy and Cancer. Think about it, folks: did a god really plan how we age? Did it arrange for the humiliation and suffering that growing old entails? We biodegrade while we’re still alive. My mother’s brain was pretty much dead—i.e., Alzheimer’s—for the last two or three years of her life. That’s poor design. And cancer is a major defect that a competent creator could have left out of the design. Loftus points out: “The exact genetics of any one cancer are complicated, but the basics are that when contact inhibition is removed (due to a mutation), the cell reverts to the ancestral state and reproduced uncontrollably. That’s what cancer is.” (p. 250) Having seen the devastation caused by this flaw, why doesn’t the god responsible make the necessary corrections? When Stephen Fry was once asked what he would say to god—if he does meet god when he dies—he has his question ready: “I’d say, bone cancer in children? What’s that about? How dare you. How dare you create a world in which there is such misery that is not our fault.” To Christians who are confident that their prayer marathons have done the trick of curing a person’s cancer—well, you’ve only made the theology even more incoherent: if god can do that, why not cure all cancers, now and forever? It only makes it worse to claim that his ways are mysterious. No, his ways are sadistic.


Botched Revelation


Hector Avalos once said that, if we were to go through the Bible verse by verse, 99 percent of it would not be missed. Randel Helms called the Bible “a self-destructing artifact.” In my essay, “Five Inconvenient Truths that Falsify Biblical Revelation,” in the Loftus anthology, The Case Against Miracles, I explained exactly why the Bible doesn’t merit word-of-god status. In just six pages in this Loftus essay, he delivers a few hammer-blows illustrating botched revelation, beginning with this:


“My claim is there is nothing in the Bible that reveals an all-knowing god. What we find is indistinguishable from him not revealing anything at all. Everything we find in the Bible is more credibly explained as the production of a prescientific people.”  (p. 250)


For example, did god not know what humans would discover by using the scientific method? If he did know—as he was inspiring the Bible—why not tell us. Again, that makes god sadistic and insensitive. Being generous, Loftus suggests that “…god did not know about penicillin, or insulin. Revealing this knowledge to us could have saved millions of lives from an early death. He did not know about anesthesia so surgeries could be done painlessly, or the dangers of bloodletting…The only excuse for god is that he does not exist.” (p. 252)


But oh what a mess this “revelation” has caused. “A god worthy of the attributes ascribed to him should have communicated better so that there would not have been so many doctrinal disputes that were a matter of life and death to Christian believers down through the centuries.” (p. 254) In this context, Loftus mentions the wars that happened in the wake of the Protestant Reformation, “…when eight million Christians slaughtered each other because God did not communicate the correct doctrine clearly to them.” (pp. 254-255)


Nor does that champion feature of revelation, prophecy, hold up under close scrutiny. This is Loftus’ challenge: 


“I defy anyone to come up with one statement in the Old Testament that is specifically fulfilled in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus that can legitimately be understood as a prophecy and singularly points to Jesus as the Messiah using today’s historical-grammatical hermeneutical method.” (p. 255)


In other words, the quote-mining practice of the gospel writers has been exposed as the fraud that it is. They created the Jesus they wanted from Old Testament concepts, leaning heavily on fragments that seemed appropriate—Matthew had a talent for choosing inappropriate fragments! —and on their theologically driven imaginations. That’s creative fiction, not revelation.  


What about that supreme revelation event, Moses receiving the Ten Commandments? Study of other law codes from the ancient Near East has shown that these commandments are similar to those of other cultures predating Israel. Moreover, it’s been obvious to many ethicists that these supposedly holy ten—let’s erect them on our courthouse squares! —are, in fact, inadequate: too much is missing. This god of Moses forget to add a few crucial thou-shalt-not’s, e.g., don’t enslave people, don’t fights wars. Don’t discriminate on the basis of skin color or gender. What a chance to smack down racism and misogyny, but did god just forget? Or as Loftus puts it: “…god was ignorant when he gave us his ten big ones.” (p. 253)


Then Loftus provides an alternate list of ten commandments, in substantial detail—woefully missing from the Moses list— that would have done far more good. Please read them carefully. What a difference these would have made: “…the needless suffering these alternative commandments could have stopped over the centuries is incalculable.” (p. 254) Just picking one at random, Number 6: “You should not engage in wars to spread the influence of your religion, gain converts, territory, power, fame, goods, money, or women, or to assume your god is on your side if you do, even if you must defend yourselves from aggressors.” (p. 254)


Bungled Redemption  


For centuries, it would seem, the Bible god required the flow of animal blood, the burning of animal flesh on his sacred altars, for him to forgive people for their sins. But then he switched to Plan B: a once-for-all human sacrifice was good enough for human redemption, when combined with a flourish of magical thinking, i.e., the human sacrifice came back to life! Really? Is that the best a supremely wise and good god could do? There’s another catch as well: only the people who have heard about this new arrangement—and believe it—will be saved. Thus we read in Matthew 28:19, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Loftus sees the great flaw here:


“Surely a god like the one Christians believe in could have been more concerned for the lost than hiring the church to do this most important job, given their incompetence, ignorance, laziness, and self-absorption when compared to god. Since Christians have been incompetent with the task, then god was incompetent in hiring them to complete it….as CEO of his corporation, his hiring practices are a failure.” (p. 257)


Then the Christians who were charged with this important mission discovered they couldn’t agree on basics and strategies. Loftus describes the chaos: “…there are so many types of Christianities to choose from. Catholics offer cogent arguments against Protestants, who in turn offer cogent arguments against evangelicals, and so on.” (p. 260)


Remember: people who don’t get it just right end up in hell. A wise, good, competent god could have done far more to educate humans, very early in our history. Which would have meant skipping animal and human sacrifice altogether. Loftus notes the big error here: 


“Are we really to believe god chose a good era in human history to reveal himself, when it was clearly a barbaric, superstitious, pre-scientific one that later generations could easily discount as such.” (p. 260)


The apostle Paul was sure that god’s default emotion was wrath: perpetual rage against humans for acting as humans do. Which pushes us back to the fundamental issue of design flaws. Aggressiveness, territoriality, selfishness, strong sexual impulses were wired into human brains from the very beginning. So we’re back to the Botched Creation, and the jarring incoherence of Christian theology.


How is it possible that this god who has messed up so badly deserves praise and worship? “God is great, god is good” —no, not even close. It’s not hard at all to see how far short he fell in creating the world, communicating his expectations, and arranging for our eternal peace in his presence. Rather, it’s not hard at all to see this piling on of bad theology: what theologians have conjured in their depictions of this deity. All this should get tossed onto the scrap heap of history, sooner rather than later. This one Loftus essay—just fifteen pages—is an Epic Takedown of the Christian faith.   


Here are the links to earlier Epic Takedowns:  ONE    TWO   THREE    FOUR   FIVE   SIX



David Madison was a pastor in the Methodist Church for nine years, and has a PhD in Biblical Studies from Boston University. He is the author of two books, Ten Tough Problems in Christian Thought and Belief: a Minister-Turned-Atheist Shows Why You Should Ditch the Faith (2016; 2018 Foreword by John Loftus) and Ten Things Christians Wish Jesus Hadn’t Taught: And Other Reasons to Question His Words (2021). His YouTube channel is here. He has written for the Debunking Christian Blog since 2016.


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