Four for the price of one

The point of the theist four-step post was to note that theists tend to think the four beliefs are one – that the belief that there is an X we call ‘God’ includes other beliefs, especially the three cited.

My real point was to emphasize that they are separate beliefs, not one and not necessarily or automatically linked; that they all have to be evaluated, not just the first; that there’s no obvious reason to assume that if ‘God’ does exist it is good (in a sense we understand) (or any other either) or wants us to be good or that we reliably know any of that.

It is worth emphasizing that, because it is somewhat remarkable how often it gets overlooked, how often the discussion is just about exist/not exist while goodness is taken for granted. It’s a very strange thing to take for granted, given the realities of animal life. It’s not at all a strange thing to hope for, to long for, to wish for, but it’s a very strange thing to assume. In a way it would make far more sense to believe there is a God and spend all one’s time imploring it to be kinder. It would make more sense for people to sit around in churches shouting up at God ‘Why are you such a bastard? Give us a break! Have a heart!’ Churches and mosques should be full of pictures of mass slaughters, everything from genocides to tsunamis and earthquakes and droughts, all captioned ‘Why? Why, God, why? Why are you such a shit?’ Along with those pictures would be all the others, not mass slaughters but just the plain everyday ones, which don’t hurt any less just because they’re single rather than mass. And that’s before we even start with illnesses and pain and bullying, and non-human animals. Churches and mosques ought (if they consulted reality) to be museums of suffering; holocaust museums in fact.

Of course, in a way it’s understandable that people start from the other end – from the hope and belief that there is Good in the world, which is then identified as God. It’s understandable, but all the same, it muddies the waters later on.

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