Wednesday, 30 May 2012

If we could convict 'god' of war crimes...

Former Liberian President Charles Taylor has been convicted of war crimes and handed a 50 year prison sentence for "aiding and abetting some of the most heinous and brutal crimes in recorded history" (Judge Lussik) though he never personally laid a finger on any of the victims.  He has never admitted any wrongdoing.  Upon reading this story, I immediately saw a parallel in the god of the Abrahamic religions who is also responsible for many of history's greatest atrocities, yet denies any wrongdoing.

"You can't blame god for the evils done in his name" is a popular refrain among Christians when confronted with the brutal history of their religion.  From the flood of Noah in Genesis to the genocidal cleansing of Canaan in Joshua to the wine-press in the book of Revelation, from the sectarian wars of the early Church to the Crusades to the European an early American witch hunts to the war in the Balkans, the history of Christianity and pre-Christian Judaism is soaked in the blood of millions (I won't address Islam as I simply don't have enough familiarity with Islamic history or how Muslims react to it).  Yet, though much of this violence was directly commanded by god - at least according to the not-so-historically accurate biblical narrative - or carried out in his name by his appointed representatives on earth, his followers insist he bears no guilt whatsoever for any of it.  If the god of the bible truly existed, the fact that he never physically touched any of the victims, but only acted by proxy, would in no way mitigate his responsibility or absolve him of the guilt for those crimes.  But Christianity, true to the nature of it's central tenet, prefers a scapegoat on which to place the burden of guilt.  There are three typical responses given by Christians when acting as lawyers in defense of their religion's role in historical bloodshed.  
For some, it is Satan himself who is responsible for all this death and destruction.  Though even a cursory reading of the bible will show that god's nemesis is not big on killing humans.  In fact, the only ones he ever killed were Job's children, and he did so only as part of a wager he had made with Yahweh.  No, the adversary is hardly the author of Christian bloodshed, and even if he were it would only prove how profoundly impotent and powerless the grace of god and the Christian message is at guiding his people and protecting them from the temptations of the devil. 

Other Christians will ascribe the guilt to "man's sinful nature".  Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit causing them to lose their state of grace and acquire a fallen nature.  Ultimately, this gets blamed on the talking serpent - later identified as Satan - despite that it was inept Yahweh that had placed the tree in the center of the garden of Eden rather than keep it safe. If your prized possession was stolen through such willful negligence, your insurance company would rightly deny the claim and the adjusters would call you an idiot behind your back.  But no so with Yahweh.  His negligence in the garden of Eden myth is never addressed, unless to say it was part of his plan all along.  Instead, Satan bears the responsibility for the temptation, and humankind bears every bit of guilt for every sin ever committed since - well, they get to transfer that over to Jesus in order to be forgiven, but it's their fault for doing the crimes in the first place.  Christianity has a strong tendency to give credit for anything positive to god, and to lay blame for anything negative at the feet of individuals.  They are taught that from the beginning of their existence they have a nature corrupted by the hereditary original sin of Adam and Eve, but even though they did not eat the forbidden fruit themselves, when they do wrong they must ask forgiveness.  Yet when they do good they should not be proud of having chosen to do good, but to credit god for their own human decency.  In fact, the bible only has one instance of a human thanking another human, but hundreds of instances of humans thanking god for good they have received at the hands of fellow humans.

The third defense presented by Christians is to simply cast aside anyone whose actions might tarnish their reputation by claiming that the offender is not and probably never was a "true Christian."  In this twist on the everything good is of god doctrine, the definition of Christian is manipulated such that by definition anyone who does wrong is, at least for the purposes of publicly acknowledging responsibility, retroactively excommunicated.  This is commonly referred to as the 'no true Scotsman fallacy', but in my opinion it should be renamed as the 'no true Christian' fallacy since it is rarely used in any other context.    
 This false and artificial division of responsibility is a shield that allows this imaginary being to continue to cast his influence over human history while dodging any sort of responsibility for negative consequences by shifting the burden of guilt away from himself, and shifting credit towards himself.  He is essentially a parody of a corrupt dictator with delusions of grandeur that would be comical if not for the great tragedy that even though he is not real, his nefarious influence on humanity most certainly is.      

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