Is God Evil?


Richard Dawkins - one of the four horsemen of the new atheism - writes in his book “The God Delusion” that the God of the Old Testament is, “arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.”1 So is Dawkins right? Is God evil?

Well that depends, by what moral standard are we judging God? If God's standard then no, the God of the Bible is not Evil. Dawkin's problem is that when he claims that God is evil it leaves the question, "says who" unanswered. In western culture it is a commonly accepted notion that human rights exist and that the strong should not trample on the weak, but why? If humans are merely bigger brained animals why should we behave differently than the rest of the animal kingdom? Is it evil for a lion to take over a pride by killing the pride’s leader and all his offspring? Of course not - so why the double standard? Why should Humans behave differently? Says who?

If I am going to say that the God of the Bible is evil and His standards for right and wrong are outdated or barbaric or whatever, this implies that I am judging God’s standard with another standard - but what standard? So a Christian can rightly ask those who assert that the God of the Bible is evil for their objective standard from which they can claim that the God of the Bible is evil. The standard must be objective (not influenced by personal feelings, interpretations, or prejudice; based on facts; unbiased: an objective opinion), for if it is subjective (based on personal opinions and feelings) then why should one person’s opinion be superior to another’s? An atheist or agnostic might feel that abusing other people is wrong, they don't like it, but they need to ask the question why it is wrong. What does wrong even mean? If their answer is rooted in a subjective opinion of what that person feels is right, then why should their biased and cultural based opinions trump another's opinions? In other words, they might feel it to be wrong but why should their feelings be given superiority to those who feel differently. 

Our culture commonly accepts the notion that all people are equal and should be treated with respect and dignity, but there are many other cultures that do not believe this; for example, India’s chaste system - So how can one determine which culture is superior to the other? As a Christian I can say that all humans are created equal since they are made in the image of God and therefore should be treated with respect and dignity. Someone might disagree with my standard, but then they are left having to replace that standard with another one. So the question is, what objective standard is Richard Dawkins using to declare that the God of the Bible is evil? If group "A" believes that slavery is right and group "B" believes that slavery is wrong, what determines which one is right? The atheist must invoke some variation of consequentialism (I don’t kill someone because their family might kill me back) mixed with a majority rules ideology (if 51% of the people say that slavery is wrong then slavery is wrong). But what if 51% say that slavery is right? Tim Keller points out a major problem with this view of morality; he writes,

“If there is no God, then there is no way to say any one action is “moral” and another “immoral” but only “I like this.” If that is the case, who gets the right to put their subjective, arbitrary moral feelings into law? You may say “the majority has the right to make the law,” but do you mean that then the majority has the right to vote to exterminate a minority? If you say “No, that is wrong,” then you are back to square one. “Who sez” that the majority has a moral obligation not to kill the minority? Why should your moral convictions be obligatory for those in opposition? … People who laugh at the claim that there is a transcendent moral order do not think that racial genocide is just impractical or self-defeating, but that it is wrong. The Nazis who exterminated Jews may have claimed that they didn’t feel it was immoral at all. We don’t care. We don’t care if they sincerely felt they were doing a service to humanity. They ought not to have done it.”

There is another major problem with Dawkin's approach to morality. If I drop God’s moral standard and rely on my subjective opinion of right and wrong, I must then realize that my opinion is largely shaped by the culture and environment I grew up in. If I had grown up in a different time and a different culture I would most likely have drastically different views on human rights - I might feel that slavery is right and equality and humans rights for all are wrong. 

There is a view that says that morality is simply a matter of progress - it is constantly evolving and improving. This view offers little practical help as it leaves everyone blind to moral truths. The idea goes that today's morality is better than yesterdays, but how then will I know that today’s western views of individual human rights are superior to tomorrow’s views (whatever those might be)? Without an objective standard to morality we are left blind to moral truisms. This view basically holds the idea that the world was ignorant until this morning. 

Alright, so Richard Dawkins doesn’t care for the God of the Old Testament - so what? As a Christian I can admit that there are many things in the Bible that God does that I don’t like either, but so what? I don't particularly enjoy reading Leviticus, so what? If I am going to say that the God of the Bible’s standard is wrong I then must replace it with another standard or else embrace moral relativism (the idea that morality is based on mere opinion and is neither right nor wrong), and who amongst us is ready to embrace that nightmarish world view? When God's standard is dropped their is a gaping hole left over. What non-theistic standard is there to replace it with? So far none have come even close to solving this problem. Atheism's logical conclusion is that morality is nothing more than "I like this" - something very few atheists will admit. However, Ernest Hemingway once admitted this when he wrote, "So far, about morals, I know only that what is moral is what you feel good after and what is immoral is what you feel bad after."2 Hemingway's view of morality leads to a world in which the evils of genicide are not truly evil. Hemmingway could only say that genocide was something that he didn't care for and didn't make him happy; though for those committing the genocide it was morally good since it made them happy and it was what they wanted. Sadly he must have realized how depressing this kind of world was as he ended up killing himself.

So why don't atheist and agnostics realize that their world view is unsustainable at even the very basic level? Why not realize their world view holds major problems in which there are no apparent solutions for? Why not embrace nihilism and live life depressed knowing it is meaningless? The answer: they know better. The atheist is committed to their world view when it is readily apparent that without God our reality does not make sense. I dont mean this as a cheap jab, but think about it - One of the biggest evidences for God is morality and how without God there cannot be right or wrong; yet the atheist refuses to realize the power of this argument. Now, to be fair, if an atheist can provide any logical and reasonable solution to morality without God I will drop this argument and admit that they indeed have a logically sustainable foundation for morality, but they can't. Romans 1 shows us why atheists refuse to acknowledge this problem; they suppress the truth they already know. Without God we are truly blind. 


[1] Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion (Boston, USA.: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2006), 51. 

[2] Ernest Hemingway, Death in the Afternoon (publication place: Scribner Book Company, 2002),13




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