God is Worse than Kim Jong-il

In my international human rights course, we've spent a lot of time discussing North Korea, both because it presents the most egregious examples of current human rights violations and because our professor has a special research interest in the topic, his family having fled Korea during the war and he having also taught in South Korea. The professor recently recounted a familiar story about foreign doctors entering the country, curing people of their ailments, and the healed immediately thanking and praising the dear leader before his portrait for helping them and curing them, despite his totalitarian and ruthless regime most likely being the direct cause of their suffering in the first place. Everyone in the class rightly considered the situation ridiculous and sad. My mind, both then and when I first heard the story years ago, immediately made the comparison between how many people in other countries would have turned to their gods in exactly the same way after the medical treatment and how it's equally ridiculous and sad.

I honestly believe that an omnimax deity who fails to help his creatures and who sends any of them to hell would be infinitely more evil than Kim Jong-il. Even leaving aside the eternity of hell which really trumps everything else, God could distribute food and medicine to the populace without any effort whatsoever whereas the North Korean government at least has to arrange to let humanitarian relief organizations enter the country to do the same. Indeed, God could miraculously heal everyone of every lament, but he never does. All the excuses that theists make on God's behalf could be equally well applied to Kim Jong-il—he knows better than we do, it's for the greater good, we have to trust in him despite all appearances. It was depressing to see documentary footage in class of North Koreans escaping into China and constantly talking about how they trusted in God to help them. It's very understandable under the circumstances of extreme hardship, extreme ignorance, and extreme fear, but it's still disheartening to see them exchange a real dictator for an even worse fictional one, one who ultimately let them down when they were captured and returned to North Korea to be imprisoned in death camps.

The only point that God has in his favor is that he doesn't actually exist. This certainly excuses his failure to help people. It also means he cannot inflict any of the suffering which he allegedly threatens; only people's belief in him can, and that level of suffering is relatively minor, especially in nations which don't take religion especially seriously. My experience with scrupulosity, while the most serious suffering of my life, is nothing compared to starvation, imprisonment, and torture. Life—or more accurately existence—in North Korea, however, would in turn be nothing compared to eternal hell, if it were real.

I'm sure that many theists feel revulsion at the comparison of the God to Kim Jong-il, but they've never provided adequate responses to the Problem of Evil or to the Problem of Hell, so I feel entirely justified in making it. This is why I blog: to say things that simply need to be said.