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I am about 21,000 words into a new book I decided to write last week, which is fun. The working title is something like 25 Arguments against God and Other Metaphysical Assumptions or 25 Arguments against God, Satan, Heaven, Hell and Other Incoherent Ideas.

Anywho, you are my testbed. The context of this argument/chapter is the geographical and historical distribution of religion. I won’t bore you with too much of the completely unedited preamble (heck, I haven’t even read it once yet!), but this should give you a taste:

Why is this a problem? Well, if you were an Arab born in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia in 1996, you are incredibly unlikely to be a Hindu; indeed, it is almost certain that you will grow up being a Muslim. Likewise, you are unlikely to grow up with primal-indigenous beliefs of the Amazon growing up in a Lutheran community in Bible Belt USA. Parents, families, communities and societies so often define who we become and what we believe.

There are, and this is an indisputable fact, distinct concentrations of religions around the world. Christians may be concentrated in Europe, South and North America, and other pockets of colonial history. Islam prevails in the Middle East, North Africa, subcontinental India, and the islands of the Indian Ocean. Shintos primarily exist in Japan, Hindus in India and thereabouts.

The challenge for religionists is that most religions have it wrong. That is, religions are mutually exclusive. If I am a Muslim, I believe that the Muslim religion and revelation are correct, and a more accurate representation of reality than that which Jain believes (almost certainly) in India. And if access to heaven or hell, or nirvana, or whatever afterlife it is, or if access to God (whichever god this is), or if access to the fruits of belief in the correct god, depends upon believing in the correct god, then there is a lot on the line.

However, given the serious implications of belief, it seems rather bizarre that OmniGod would design, create and arrange the world (or allow the world to develop) in such a way that most people don’t rationally survey the smorgasbord of religious offerings and then, using logic and reason, assent to the correct one. Instead, they are overwhelmingly born into any given religion.

The belonging to a particular religion depends on where and when they were born.

And that might well be the component of their existence that informs the verdict of whether or not they access the good stuff or get condemned to the bad stuff. Perhaps for eternity.

It gets worse when you consider the vagaries of history. Imagine being born into Egyptian or Aboriginal Australian culture in 5,000 BCE, before the events of the Hebrew Bible or the Christian Bible (i.e., Old and New Testaments). Now imagine that Christianity is the one true religion. How is it fair, when one has no control over when and where one is born, that one is born into one of those contexts? The person would have absolutely no chance of being able to access the correct divine revelation upon which rests the reward of heaven or the punishment of hell.

Okay, now back to me again. (As opposed to me.)

What I meant to know is if this syllogism works, or could be improved. It’s informal, language-wise:

But with most versions of God as we understand them, and given religious exclusivity, the scenario presented in this argument is as follows:

(1) Our beliefs will define whether we get the good stuff or don’t (heaven, hell, loving union with God, etc.).

(2) Our beliefs (globally) are overwhelmingly defined by when and where we are born.

(3) From (1) and (2), whether we get the good stuff or not is overwhelmingly defined by when and where we are to be born.

(4) We have no control over when and where we are to be born.

(5) Most people are born into the “wrong” places, where beliefs prevail that preclude them from getting the good stuff.

(6) From (3) – (5), most people, overwhelmingly, have no control over whether they get the good stuff (reward) or not (punishment).

(7) It is unfair to be punished or rewarded for things over which we have no control.

(8) God, being ultimately powerful and responsible, has control over everything – when and where we are to be born, the entire world into which we are to be born, who is to be rewarded and punished, and how, etc.

(9) God designs and creates a world in which it knowingly allows most people to overwhelmingly have no control over the good stuff or not.

(10) From (5), (8) and (9), God designs and creates a world in which most people are punished and, overwhelmingly, have no control over their punishment.

(11) From (7) – (10), therefore, God is unfair.

I am wondering whether the word “unfair” in (7) is correct given the verb is in the passive tense.


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Jonathan MS Pearce

A TIPPLING PHILOSOPHER Jonathan MS Pearce is a philosopher, author, columnist, and public speaker with an interest in writing about almost anything, from skepticism to science, politics, and morality,...