06 October 2010

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.

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10 comments:

Jeffrey A. Myers said...

Why Does God Not Help His People?

One would think that the Creator of the Great All, be he represented by the Christian faith, the Muslim faith, the Hindu faith, the Bahai faith, the Jewish faith, etc., would bestow his blessing on those people who seek to follow his divine will. One would think that the Creator of the Great All would ensure that His people are rewarded for their faithfulness. As statistics make readily apparent, even if one does not explicitly argue that extreme religiosity CAUSES societal misery, extreme religiosity certainly does NOT prevent it.

Indeed, the economic, political and social situations of Highly Religious and Highly Irreligious Countries could not be more diametrically opposed.

The top 20 Most Religious Countries on the planet contain somewhere on the order of 599,370,000 people according to the United Nations. Altogether, the approximately 600,000,000 people living in the 20 Most Religious averages out to aproximately $1,200 per person per year. While approximately the same number of people (604,555,000) living in the top 20 Least Religious Countries average out to approximately $23,956 per person per year. In other words, those individuals living in the 20 Least Religious Countries on the planet earn almost TWENTY TIMES MORE per year than their counterparts in the 20 Most Religious Countries on the planet.

Not only do citizens of highly irreligious societies live lives of far greater material comfort, their lives are much longer. This is likely due to the alarming persistence of hunger and starvation in the 20 Most Religious Countries.

Unsurprisingly the average life expectancy of a citizen in one of the 20 Most Religious Countries is 63.88 years. The average life expectancy of a citizen in one of the 20 Least Religious Countries is over 12 years longer, at 76.04.

In addition to lack of food and money, the citizens of highly religious societies suffer in innumerable other ways as well. Literacy in the 20 Most Religious Countries stands at approximately 59.12% of the overall population. Literacy in the 20 Least Religious Countries stands at approximately 98.3% of the overall population. Under the United Nations Human Development Index and Prosperity Index, composite measures of individual Nations' wealth, access to healthcare, longevity, personal freedom, political freedom, etc., consistently illustrate the very trend illustrated above - that Highly Religious Societies suffer in almost every conceivable way.

By nearly any conceivable metric, Highly Religious Countries fare far, far, FAR worse than Highly Irreligious Countries. The point is NOT that Religion necessarily CAUSES societies to fail, causes hunger, poverty, disease, starvation, illiteracy, murder. The point is that Religion does NOT resolve those problems. The point is that those who argue that societies steeped in Religion are more just, more fair, more moral, are quite simply wrong.

Theists, when presented with the irrefutable fact that the most Highly Religious Societies are uniformly unpleasant, especially when compared to the Most Irreligious Societies, respond that such comparisons fail to take into account colonialism, fail to take into account the importance of poverty, and reflect nothing more than the fact that as Countries grow wealthy and stable, they have the freedom to abandon faith and abandon God. That Atheism is a selfish and narcissistic response ot our material well-being.

Indeed. Because what the unmitigated success of godless societies indicates is that society does not need God. Society doesn't require God. Not for material well being. Not for health. Not for wealth. Not for literacy or education. Not to maintain social cohesion. Not to minimize crime. Not to minimize violence. What the incredible success of godless societies proves is that God is NOT necessary. That when we are accountable to one another, we are just as capable of functioning as a society as we are when we pretend that we are beholden to some manner of divinity.

Craggsy said...

Another parallel is the hideous display of conformity and brown nosing from their followers. The north Koreans are almost made to act like sheep, and we have christians calling themselves sheep, as if it were a virtue to be proud of.
Yet as bad as North Korea is - at least it leaves you once you die. The celestial dictator apparently has no intention of letting you leave his flock.

http://atheistzoo.blogspot.com

marc said...

In a debate with a religious zealot, Christopher Hitchens remarked that living under the watch of god would be like living in North Korea. The opponenet replied, "I'm not sure god is Kim Jong-Il," to which Hitch said, "ask Kim Jong-Il, he has a different opinion:" http://scholarlywritingreviewed.com/?p=58 (Top video, at 1:58)

Chris said...

My name is Chris and I am a Christian. I would like to comment on the original post and the other comments if I may. I would like to say that of course it offends me to have God compared to a ruthless dictator like Kim Jong Il. However, I would be equally offended if you compared anyone I loved to that madman. I understand if you don't want me to play, but I think its better to have two different sides of any debate if possible.

You make the comment that a deity who fails to help any of His creatures is basically worse than Kim Jong Il. Is God bad because He doesn't "help" people the way you would prefer? The fact is that God promises to take care of HIS children. He will not answer the prayer of those who don't believe in Him. For those that do believe in Him, the answer will come and God will take care of them, but it may not be the way you would prefer or the way that whey would prefer. Healing can come in many different forms. Sometimes that healing may be ultimate healing, which is death. However, for the believer, death is the end of all pain and the beginning of eternal life with an omni-benevolent God. This is a fallen world. People get sick, lose jobs, experience the death of loved ones, etc. The hope of the Father is just that. It is the assurance that whatever you are going through will be ok. God knows all, and the issues that come up in our lives do not surprise him.

Chris said...

Next, you are right. Hell does trump everything else. This life is but a blink of an eye, eternity is, well, eternity. Which brings me to a question. Respectfully, what do you believe happens to you when you die? As an atheist, do you believe that we have a soul? If so, what happens to it at death? If not, I guess we just cease to exist. Forgive me if these questions seem basic, I am just trying to figure out more about where you are coming from.

Anyway, you are right again in saying thsat God could provide food for the hungry and cure all that ills of the world. And one day, that will be the case. I realize that obviously you don't believe in the Bible. But for those that do believe, the answer to those questions are in the very first book of the Bible. God gave man free will to choose between right and wrong. Man chose to sin. There are consequences to our choices, believer or non-believers. The fact is that too much emphasis is placed on our temporal existence. Those that believe know that their hunger and suffering are temporary. God doesn't promise that life will be easy for any of us, but He does promise paradise to those are faithful and endure.

Chris said...

It has been a while since anyone posted on this site, but I will check back on it to see if anyone would care to respond.

If anyone is interested, I would like to discuss an atheitic view of the soul and what happens, if anything, when we die. The original author also writes at the end of his post that no Christian has ever given a good response to the problem of Evil or the problem of Hell. I would love to debate these issues and try to learn more about your perspective.

I don't know if you would consider me a "religious zealot" or not. I love my God and have dedicated my life to serving Him and to serving others in His name. I would love to keep the debate civil and promise to address your rebuttals respectfully. I would also enjoy discussing your thoughts on the origin of life.

I will leave you with this: the title of the original post in "God is worse than Kim Jong Il". Does that mean that you believe that God is real and is just plain bad? Kim Jong Il is real which makes the statement seem factual dealing with real players and not just ideas or such. Just asking for some clarification.

Secular Planet said...

Chris,

I very much welcome your comments! I appreciate your taking the time to express your opinion and views.

Is God bad because He doesn't "help" people the way you would prefer? The fact is that God promises to take care of HIS children.

According to Christian theology, all people, even atheists and followers of Kim Jong-il’s Juche philosophy, are God’s creatures. If God’s love for the beings he brings into existence is conditioned on their obeying his every command, he is less loving than even my mother, who still loves me despite my atheism.

He will not answer the prayer of those who don't believe in Him.

People don’t pray to God if they don’t believe in him. I’m not sure what you’re getting at.

For those that do believe in Him, the answer will come and God will take care of them, but it may not be the way you would prefer or the way that whey would prefer.

For those that do believe in Him, the answer will come and Kim Jong-il will take care of them, but it may not be the way you would prefer or the way that whey would prefer.

Respectfully, what do you believe happens to you when you die? As an atheist, do you believe that we have a soul? If so, what happens to it at death? If not, I guess we just cease to exist.

I don’t know what happens when we die. The evidence suggests that consciousness ends upon death, so I believe that we probably just cease to exist. It would be like before I was born.

Anyway, you are right again in saying thsat God could provide food for the hungry and cure all that ills of the world. And one day, that will be the case.

A promise to act later doesn’t justify the failure to act now. And anyone can make empty promises about what will happen after you die since you can’t come back to demand satisfaction.

The fact is that too much emphasis is placed on our temporal existence.

Of course, if we only have a temporal existence, then any emphasis on eternity is too much.

Does that mean that you believe that God is real and is just plain bad? Kim Jong Il is real which makes the statement seem factual dealing with real players and not just ideas or such.

No, I don’t believe that your god is real. The idea of him is real. If I said that Darth Vader is worse than Kim Jong-il, that wouldn’t imply I thought Darth Vader is real.

If anyone is interested, I would like to discuss an atheitic view of the soul and what happens, if anything, when we die. The original author also writes at the end of his post that no Christian has ever given a good response to the problem of Evil or the problem of Hell. I would love to debate these issues and try to learn more about your perspective.

If you want to have an e-mail discussion, my e-mail address is in the sidebar under “Contact.”

Secular Planet

Anonymous said...

Secular Planet,
You did'nt know the truth. Don't say something only refering to your thoughts. You should learn about the true religion first, that is Islam.Theres alot of things you did'nt know yet.

Anonymous said...

Chris,
I hope you find the true one and only god....
By the way Jesus is not god or son of god....

solomon said...

Craggsy,
Ypu're a confused dude...