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“God’s only excuse is that he does not exist.”

Mari-Henri Byle “Stendhal”

“All religions are founded on the fear of the many and the cleverness of the few.”

Stendhal again, now explaining how the priestly caste is just as cunning as their god

God is a chessmaster, if there is ever such a being; this or nonexistence are the only two solutions to evil. This is the conclusion to which I came after pondering the problem of evil as an adolescent, and in all honesty it is a far more compelling and likely version of the monotheistic god than any benign creator envisioned by the Abrahamists.

There is the problem of evil, which expands each year with new atrocities. Why do viruses attack the innocent? What purpose does it serve for small children to be inflicted with terminal diseases before they have had a chance to change the world? God observes every motion throughout history, and yet the plausibility and frequency of miracles remains less than the evidence that the Old World contacted the Americas before Columbus or that there was honor among the aging Confederates of 1912.

Is the god of monotheists an evil being then? Perhaps he is, having created a whole nature for man to enjoy only to do nothing when the wars of conquest he commands do nothing to fulfill man’s role as steward.

Still, there is the idea that the moral crimes that notoriously define the Old Testament were just stepping stones to the establishment of a temporal kingdom of caretakers, meant to guide the way to the Heavenly Realm. If we take this at face value, that Israel was a device to bring about a new covenant, it remains that God allowed Jews of Canaan to wander through a state of salvatory limbo, to say nothing of the virtuous pagans who were not rescued in the Harrowing (read through Dante’s descriptions of Limbo for instance, and notice how Virgil recalls the descent into Hell as an event distant to him and his Roman forbears).

Even if we give God the benefit of the doubt and state that Confucius, Plato and the like were drawn up with the patriarchs (the Acts refers for example to a temple to the unknown god), why did he not give them the spirit to correct such errors, instead of letting the pagans continue in beliefs that would clash with the Gospel? Why is the philosophy of Greece not as divinely inspired, with a line gradually unfolding from the pre-Socratics to the Epicureans and Stoics? Instead, the pagan canon is as jumbled and mixed with human bias as any of the books of the Old Testament.

All this speculation results in the inevitable conclusion that to approach the god of Abraham, we must conclude him not to be a fully benign guide but a schemer who moves the actions of man and nature along a universal checkerboard and is more concerned with the whole of humanity than the salvation of any individual. No matter his intentions or ultimate ends, a God who manages the affairs of humanity in this regard is just as Machiavellian a figure as any human prince who wants allegiance, and this is a fact to which any believer in a perfect and all-powerful being must reconcile themselves.

But this is a far cry from the all-loving deity which is preached by the Bible and Koran, who is meant to connect to believers on an intimate, personal level, whereas the Age of Reason began only whenever natural philosophers began looking at God as just another force of nature. Love doesn’t seek to manipulate, even for supposedly benign purposes, nor does it reduce the fate and concerns of another person to pieces of one’s own master plan.

As Captain Cassidy of Roll to Disbelieve explains, abusive relationships most often emerge from when one or more in a social interaction forces others to bend to one’s own inflexible plans and ideas. The God of the Bible, even at his most well-intentioned, cannot function differently from a child playing with toy soldiers if he sets up plans for future plays while disregarding the evils of the present day.

(Kyle Cope is an agnostic writer and academic publisher from the Greater Richmond Area who specializes in writing about topics from formal art critiques to popular books about history and the autism spectrum. He is committed to secularism from a center-left perspective, both in his articles and his commitment to tracking the progress of social justice within the United States.)

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DAYLIGHT ATHEISM Adam Lee is an atheist author and speaker from New York City. His previously published books include "Daylight Atheism," "Meta: On God, the Big Questions, and the Just City," and most...