God Given Punishment?
That's right fine folks of the internet it's that time again. Time to tackle yet ANOTHER subject that believers give God credit for where none is due. In previous installments we've dealt mostly with the blessings that God supposedly dealt out to mankind, things like morality, athletic talent, etc. But in this “episode” we're going to deal with the darker side of our favorite deities and what happens when instead of rewarding humanity God pours out punishments.
Natural Disasters and Sin
The most common claims I see about God's punishment usually crop up right after some form of natural disaster tears through some part of the world. Even first world countries like America are not immune. Immediately after Hurricane Katrina, which hit New Orleans heavy and hard, a cavalcade of God's personal pimps (read: Preachers, Pastors and Priests) came out and claimed that the storm was God's wrath.
The first sign that these instances are NOT actually God's wrath is that the supposed prophets of God can't quite pin down what the cause of the wrath was. Some will come out and say that abortion is the cause, or perhaps God was angry about fornication, drinking or homosexuality. Some like to lump these “sins” together and claim it was a combination of factors.
The commonality is that it is always something seen as SIN which brings about the disasters. So if SIN causes God's wrath to descend than we should be able to prove that fact time and time again with historical data. Surely, if there is any truth to the idea that God punishes the wicked, we should see countless instances in history where the wicked were punished.
Let's begin by breaking the law, Godwin's Law, and bring in the Nazis.
Hitler was pretty wicked right? In fact some people deem him the most evil figure in all of human history. He's certainly one of the more recognizable wicked men of the last few centuries. Surely Yahweh, or Allah, or whatever justice loving God you care to subscribe to, would see Hitler's evils and do something about it. After all if God is willing to smite New Orleans for Voodoo and the tendency to show their tits for beads surely this mighty and just God has something to say about the HOLOCAUST... right?
In fact the Abrahamic God(s) are all knowing right? So they would have seen Hitler's atrocities coming and known that it would take a concerted allied effort of many nations to bring down the Axis and end the war right? So why does the hand of Yahweh do absolutely nothing to prevent or stop World War 2 and the Holocaust?
Surely if anyone is deserving of punishment it's someone like Hitler and I highly doubt that Yahweh was sitting on his throne waiting for the Catholics to excommunicate dear old Adolf before making his move.
History is stocked full of evil and wicked characters. Even in today's world corruption and greed are every where. If God cared about sin you might expect him to be the one occupying Wall Street and delivering some much needed justice to the bankers and politicians who rob us blind while we struggle to feed our families. But no, clearly the REAL people in need of punishment are folks like the Haitians and the citizens of New Orleans. And OBVIOUSLY hundreds of thousands of Indonesian men women and children all deserved to die in the 2004 Tsunami.
This reveals the inner hypocrisy in the claim that disasters are used to punish the wicked. Believers treat some disasters as punishments while others are just “allowed to happen” by God. It shouldn't come as a surprise that those disasters which are sent by God are used as tools to further political agendas and frighten people into submission.
Thankfully there are decent believers out there who, instead of acting like total dicks, give to charities and relief funds in the event of such disasters. Even then though somewhere within themselves they have to admit that God was in control of that disaster. That God could have prevented the catastrophe but chose not to. The “Free Will Defense” doesn't work in this context, a Hurricane doesn't have free will, so it must be God's choice to allow those disasters.
Diseases and Other Stuff
Another way that God supposedly punishes the wicked is by striking them down with diseases. Clearly believers in this support the idea that the plagues didn't end in Egypt. To anyone with decent moral sensibilities this should seem like a deal breaker when we're talking about a God that is meant to be both loving, patient, merciful and just. To strike someone down with a disease seems a bit cruel don't you think?
Surely if God's wish is that all men repent of their sins it would do well to leave them in a physical condition where repentance is possible. Unless God doesn't understand the irony of a person asking forgiveness from the same deity who just struck them with stage four cancer.
When a human parent disciplines their child should they also harm their child? God is meant to be MORE merciful than a human being correct? Than why can he cause plagues and disasters without being seen as evil but a human being who beats their child IS?
Here's a hypothetical example, let's say we have a teenager who is fornicating and worshiping a God other than Yahweh. Both of these are sins in the Bible. The human parent decides to enroll their child in therapy, ground them for a month and start sending them to a Christian school. But Yahweh has his own punishment in mind, and the teenager soon comes down with Cancer. I'd say we're dealing with something beyond just TOUGH love in this case. The worst part of this is that if this were the Old Testament, our teenager would be worthy, according to Yahweh, not just of cancer but of DEATH.
The wages of sin, as the Bible says, is death. I've had fundamentalists make the argument that because all sin is worthy of death and all men are sinners this means God can smite you however he likes whenever he wants. Being born already worthy of death is hardly fair, however, so many believers create an “age of accountability” which, frighteningly enough, varies anywhere from childhood to young adulthood.
When I was a kid I was taught the age of accountability was twelve, that's right, just when you start getting old enough to appreciate the finer qualities of the female form those newly fermenting filthy thoughts put you in direct danger of Hell itself. And since God can smite you at any time you better watch what you think and do very carefully (he sees you when you're sleeping, and knows when you touch yourself at night).
In the Bible there are actually some characters who are struck with BLINDNESS by God, and still others who go mad. In fact in one heart-warming Biblical tale of God's mercy God strikes Nebuchadnezzar the Second with madness. Nebby spends SEVEN YEARS living in a feral animal-like state of madness. After which he learns his lesson and never fucks with Yahweh again. God acts like a bully often and he always gets his way and is praised for his incredibly bully-like behavior in the end.
Even now, none of the BLAME
In previous installments of the series I've accused believers of giving God all the credit but none of the blame. God is often praised for ALL that is good in the world but very rarely is blamed for the bad things that happen. Instead HUMAN SIN is always the cause. Even in the case of God given punishments God is acting based on the sins of human kind and thus many Christians don't see laying these punishments at God's feet as BLAMING God.
The tradition of claiming supernatural causes for natural disasters and diseases goes back thousands of years and stretches deep into the very heart of human superstition. From Poseidon ensuring that Odysseus did not reach the shores of Ithaca to the Great Flood drowning everyone on Earth save Noah and his family. There have always been attempts to explain the random disasters as being part of this larger pattern of divine punishment. It is hard for the human mind to accept that bad things can happen to good people for no reason at all. And thus they must say that those people were not good, they were sinful, they MUST have been sinful. For surely the God's MUST be just and surely the gods would not send such tragedies if they were not somehow necessary.
The superstitious make so many assumptions about the nature of the Universe and of whichever deity they subscribe to. The truth of the matter is, as many reasonable believers will admit, sometimes bad things happen. Bad things happen even to those who try to live good moral lives.
God does not and cannot have the whole world in his hands because if he does that makes him a monster. Luckily for us there are better explanations, natural explanations, for Hurricanes, earthquakes, lightning and disease. We need not invoke demons or angels, deities or devils, to explain such things. Tornadoes and the flu are not tools of punishment, they are unfortunate realities of a sometimes random world.
Part of JUSTICE is that the punishment fit the crime. If you think that finite human sins grant God the right to wipe out hundreds of thousands of people with impunity than I suggest you examine your moral compass- it just might be broken.
For those of us who have left superstition behind there is no reason to think of natural disasters as the raging wrath of a God with anger management issues. Instead of blaming the victims we empathize with them, because rather than see a world where the divine hands of a wicked God pretending to be righteous we understand that bad things happen. When you understand how the world actually works, you no longer need a God to work in mysterious ways.
Thanks for reading!
Other Installments in the Giving Credit to God series
- Giving Credit to God
Objections are offered against the superstitious trend of giving credit to God for things he obviously didn't do. The first in a series.
- God Given Gifts?
Hub analyzing the idea that all of your talents and abilities are gifts from God.
- God Given Morality?
A hub analyzing and debunking the bizarre claim that morality comes from God.
- God Given Rights?
Further analysis of the bizarre trend of giving credit to God for things he obviously didn't do. This hub deals specifically with the idea of rights from God.
- God Given Victory?
In this installment I deal with the absurd idea that God is helping people win at everything from war to the lottery
- God Given Meaning?
Hub discussing the idea that the meaning of life comes from God and that without God there is no objective meaning.
More by this Author
A hub attempting to show that God's non-physical attributes, such as omnipotence, are either meaningless, nonsensical or both and that they are imposed on God by man.
A hub about whether any God could be self-evident and require no defending. Also touches upon the divide between Deism and Theism and the pitfalls of presuppositional apologetics.
A brief journey into the bizarre branch of New Age woo called Spirit Science. Can you tell real Spirit Science from stuff I just made up—take the quiz!