God is perfect! He is just and holy and merciful. That is how Christian and Muslim apologists often begin a public debate with an atheist. Once they’ve established the definition of perfection they are then able to make their case for believing. If god is perfect he is a transcendent foundation for moral values. But is perfect the right word to describe the god of the Torah from which the New Testament and Koran are founded upon? No statements of godly perfection should be allowed without critical cross examination.
The definition of a perfect being by any human understanding of what constitutes the term has absolutely nothing to do with the god of Abraham. When someone thinks of a perfect person, they don’t think of perfect as in jealous. We consider jealousy to be a human weakness, not a trait of flawlessness. When we think of a perfect person, we think of someone who would be fair to all people, not a selected group in a specific region. We wouldn’t think of perfection as an entity that justifies one group of people enslaving and murdering another. So what does perfection mean when the term is used to describe god?
The ancient Greek philosopher known as Socrates believed in a perfect personal god. But Socrates rejected the god of his people. Why? He recognized that Zeus was seriously flawed and not worthy of worship. When sentenced to death the charges against Socrates included not recognizing the gods acknowledged by the State and inventing new gods. A “perfect” being was considered to be a “new” god, not one that was already established in tradition. Anyone who’s studied Greek mythology understands that Zeus was not an ideal example of good character.
In one story Zeus seduces a woman while disguised as her husband. Zeus was having such a good time making love to this woman that he altered time to extend one night into three. Unlike his counterpart Jesus, Hercules was not born of a virgin by any means. This is just one example of the infidelity and imperfection of the mightiest Greek god. So did Socrates pick and choose writings about Zeus to raise that god to the high standards of perfection? Did he ignore the stories that clearly indicated serious moral flaws? No, his honestly would not allow this. Did Socrates lower his own moral standards to accept the god of his people? No, his integrity would not allow this. The only choice for Socrates was to reject Zeus.
Christian and Muslim apologists simply don’t have the integrity of Socrates. As grossly imperfect as Zeus was, he was a far better role model than the god of Abraham who aside from drowning countless men, women and children, once ordered a man to be murdered simply for picking up sticks on the wrong day.
When these apologists make the claim of perfection, what exactly do they mean? It is perfection by the Machiavellian use of the term. It is might makes right. It is the claim that since god is the highest authority, he dictates what perfection is no matter what cruel and immoral acts he performs. Anything that god does is deemed perfect through power, not justice. This is a twisted and sadistic definition of perfection. Under this meaning anything can be justified as righteous no matter how unethical. Unspeakable atrocities have received so called divine vindications throughout history by evoking the approval of god.
There is no divine authority and there never has been. Claiming to speak to god doesn’t make it true. No one claiming to speak to god today should be believed, and no one making that claim over 2,000 years ago is deserving of anything more. No one should be given ultimate authority over others whether claiming or not claiming to speak directly to or for god. The best way to avoid atrocities of the past is to establish a well-educated and free society absent of all human and imaginary tyrants.
Let us have a noble desire that right makes might. Let morality come from the proper source of honorable individuals and a just society, not angry and jealous myths. It is the greatest moral reasoning of mankind that must transcend our system of right a wrong beyond the purely survivalist system in nature. Good Christians and Muslims are not good because of their religion, they are good despite it. The Bible and the Koran don’t provide “perfect” morality, they provide for perfect obedience to fraudulent claims under threats of endless torture. These are not books of true morality; they are books of false authority.
James Kirk Wall
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