It's Joe Holman, your ex-servant with yet another list of questions for you – questions you will, no doubt, add to my extensive list of blasphemies, reproaches, and mortal sins, which will further serve to guarantee my damnation – but a man must have answers, right? None of your representatives here on earth (the scholars and theologians whom you have appointed to make you look logically credible in the eyes of skeptics) can provide me with the answers I seek, so I would like to get them straight from the horse’s mouth, if you don't mind.
As you know, Lord, I am a troubled soul, a rigidly dogmatic and militant atheist, headed straight for the burnt-black depths of the merciless Hell you created. I desperately need your help and salvation, but I need these questions answered before that can ever happen. The first set of questions concerns your existence.
For one, I am confused, oh Lord, about this whole creation scheme. I mean, you are a perfect being, which means you lack nothing, right? So why did you bother creating anything in the first place? I thought a perfect being would have no needs or wants. Apparently that's not true of you since, for some reason, you became discontented with the peacefulness of being alone in the quiet chasm of nonexistence that surrounded you. It was just you – perfect, holy, and lonesome – evidently not knowing what to do with yourself for a googol eons before time began. I think I understand how that could get boring. I mean, you can only create so many angels, galaxies, and diverse kinds of creatures, until eventually, you're bored out of your mind, right? Is this what it was that changed your thinking to suddenly decide to create a big, bustling universe? Let me reiterate: you don't have to be sorry for being bored in your position. Since you are the all-knowing God, no knowledge is hidden from you, which to me, would make for a lot of pronounced boredom.
Somehow, someway, you are made up of three persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, but you three certainly can't talk to one another since you are all one and share the same knowledge. You can't really talk to the angels or us humans down here either because you know everything we are going to say before we say it. So naturally, you can't ever find any meaningful conversations to get into. That's okay, though. Correct me if I'm wrong, but you shouldn't really want conversation because, as God, you know all things, and no one can give you knowledge that you already have, right? I'm afraid I must raise the same question in regard to praising and worshipping you.
Why do you need praise? Why worship? Why do you need to hear constant flatteries from lesser beings who are beneath you? What do you get out of this? Is worship just another form of a heavenly "high,” some sort of divine masturbation? Well, I suppose your Bible does answer this question for me, at least indirectly; it says you are a jealous God (Exodus 20:5), meaning you long for ceaseless attention and adoration; but jealousy is a bad thing, isn't it? It’s a human flaw. How is this a positive, perfect, and holy attribute of yours? Jealousy always accompanies obsession. If you were human and expressed the same insatiable need for such relentless, self-obsessive, self-glorifying worship, I'd think you had more issues than a newspaper, and can you blame me? I can deal just fine with obsessed, neurotic humans, but an obsessed and neurotic god? That's too much. A god with human frailties is quite a scary thing.
Moving on, in all of eternity's silence before you decided to create this universe, did you ever wonder, even for just a second, how you came to exist? Please tell me, did you create yourself? I don't see how you could have created yourself because that would make you temporal and not eternal, and a thing cannot be its own first cause now, can it? If you didn't create yourself, but existed eternally, then aren't you limited in power because you exist apart from your own approval? I mean, you didn't have any choice but to exist, did you? You must also be powerless to commit suicide because if you did, you would cease to be eternal, no? So it seems fair to say that you are powerless in these regards, a slave to your own existence. I'm only asking because I can't fathom this whole eternal god thing.
Every second grader asks their parents, "Mommy, who created God!" You and the scholars say that you were never created, but that you "always were." Well, forgive me for sounding uncouth, but isn't the phrase "always was" up for grabs? Can't we atheist philosophers just as easily postulate that the matter within the universe has always existed rather than jumping to the idea that some farfetched god has always existed? If that is the case, why should I accept your existence as being eternal and not the universe itself? What logical reason do I have to say that a god "always was" and not just stop and say that "matter always was"? I mean, you have to admit, jumping to a far-out conclusion that a mysterious, spooky deity created everything from nothing is a pretty big leap. I've never seen you, nor had any real experience with you, and so saying "I always was" has no significance and doesn't alleviate my curiosity about the problem of your origins at all. I could be wrong, but doesn't it make actually more sense to explain the origin of the universe on matter that we know exists instead of trying to explain it as the work of some god that we don't know exists?
All the theologians and scholars that believe in you are going out of their way to try to prove your existence to the world. They are taking everything from rocks to wristwatches and saying that since everything shows evidence of design, then there was a "Great Designer" who originally designed all things (that designer being you, of course). Hold on just a minute though, Lord! If this is true, and all design in the universe is evidence of intelligent design, then your designing mind is also complex, and therefore, requires an even greater designer! So your scholars have solved nothing. Help me out here, oh mighty one.
Life is tough for us atheists. Let it be clear that we would worship you, if only we could establish your existence, but here, you really can't blame us—even you must admit that there is no way to tell you apart from a being who doesn't exist. Think about it for a moment: you are omnipotent (all-powerful). You are omnipresent (infinitely present). You are also omniscient (all-knowing), and you are supposedly omni-benevolent (all-good). This is hard to take in. You have absolutely no limits to define your being. In order for earthlings to understand a thing, it must be understood to have limits. I mean, everything we can define, we define because of limits; I am 6'4” and not 6'3” or 6'5”. I have brown hair, and not jet black or blonde hair, and on and on we could go. The same applies to every person, place, and thing in the universe. We comprehend the universe by limits, but since you have no limits, there is therefore no distinction between you and a being who is non-existent, mythical, nonsensical, or completely illogical and untenably incoherent. You defy all logic, all thought, and all perception down to the smallest detail, and then you expect us to accept you as factual (existent) by way of reasoning and logical thinking? This just isn't happening! Please help!
Then I find other logical problems like the omnipotence vs. omniscience dilemma. How can you be infinitely knowledgeable and infinitely powerful at the same time? For example, let's say I am thirsty for either a glass of tea or a chocolate malt. Being an all-knowing deity, you know for sure which of the two I will choose as my beverage; you know that I will choose the chocolate malt. Now let's just say that you choose to exercise your omnipotence and force me to drink the tea instead of the malt; at this point, your two attributes (omniscience and omnipotence) clash; since you foreknew that I would drink the chocolate malt, you are powerless to make me drink the tea, and if you decided to force me to drink the tea anyway, you would be falsifying your own foreknowledge (because despite your foreknowledge, I drank the tea instead of the malt). So it seems to me that you might be a very powerful being, but not infinitely so—in my humble opinion, of course.
This second set of questions is in regard to your setup and planning in the Garden of Eden. First off, where did this talking snake come from (Genesis 3:1-7)? Since you created all things and only things good (2 Chronicles 19:7; James 1:12), from whence came Satan? If Satan always existed as an evil co-deity with you, then you are not omnipotent because in that case, you would not be the only eternal deity. If you created Satan to become evil, then you violated your own word by creating an evil thing, when supposedly, you cannot break or contradict your word (Titus 1:2; John 10:35). If Satan was originally created as an angel and later fell from grace, then why did you create a being that you knew would fall away? Are you not then responsible, at least in part, for his error like a negligent parent would be responsible for injury incurred on a child by leaving a knife in a child's playpen?
Please tell me why you put taboo fruit in your perfect paradise garden when you knew that your beloved primal pair of humans would eat of it and die? I'm confused already, but it gets worse; you created an angel who became the prince of the demons, and one primal couple that you knew would choose to eat the forbidden fruit, and thus, be condemned to death and Hell forever. You knew when you created man that he would fall from grace. You knew that I would become an atheist, yet you allowed all us sinners to live in the first place, knowing that we will one day writhe in agony, with blood-curdling screams, as we forever roast in the inferno of Hell. How could you do this?
I know you've had the freewill idea going for quite a while now, and you've been filling the heads of your mini-crusading, good soldier theologians with it to try and explain why terrible things happen in life, but tell me: is freewill really free? How can you say that we have freewill when we mortals cannot step out of the infinite maze of the cause and effect system which undercuts all human decisions and goals? I can't find a way out of this quandary. Since you know all things, isn't our every action and reaction as obvious to you as our favorite movie script is to us? Even if you somehow choose "not to know" some future events, as a few of your scholars have suggested, this would eliminate you from the role of God, since a God must, by definition, be infinite in all aspects, including foreknowledge. If you were concerned with allowing man freewill in the garden, why couldn't you have simply allowed Adam and Eve to exist without knowing evil—and what they didn't know, they wouldn't have chosen, would they? So freewill was never even an issue. You don't need the presence of evil to have freewill.
This brings up another question. How could Satan fall from grace in a sinless environment? If one must be tempted to sin, and Adam and Eve had to have Satan to sin, then who tempted Satan? If there was no sin in heaven, and yet an angel chose to become evil, what will prevent the same thing from happening to us when we get there? If sin can just "pop up" when and where there is none, what are we to do if we make the wrong choices in heaven, or perhaps succumb to some overwhelming sense of lofty heavenly pride? Maybe this was what happened to Satan? Heaven doesn't sound too comforting now!
Forgive me, Lord, for sounding presumptuous. It may be that you really wanted evil there or just allowed it for some higher purpose than a mere pea-brain mortal like myself can understand, but how can that be with an omnipotent being? Beings with infinite power aren’t limited to having to choose between a few limited options. Forgive me for thinking that a perfect being could make a way to create a world where nothing went wrong and everything was to that being’s liking.
Maybe there's something wrong with me, but I thought that perhaps you were unable to eliminate evil, or perhaps you were unwilling to eliminate it, or maybe you were both unwilling and unable? If you are unable to eliminate evil, then you are not all-powerful, and if you are unwilling, then you are wicked. If you are both unable and unwilling, then you are both impotent and wicked. Since you are supposedly both willing and able to vanquish evil, why does evil exist? Questions, questions, but maybe I shouldn't jump the gun. Maybe, for instance, you allowed evil to enter the world to test the faithfulness of our souls? Only problem with this is, you already knew who would pass and who would fail the test without a test of any kind, so it’s all pointless. Maybe you allowed evil to enter into the world to teach us lessons about life, but that doesn't really work either because you are omnipotent and could have taught man every lesson he ever needed to know a thousand different ways. You could even have made souls to be born with this knowledge.
Maybe you allowed evil to dominate the world to show us the love of salvation in the afterlife, but then that's sort of creating a problem to solve it, don't you think? Why not just show us love in the afterlife in the first place? Why bother with this material world business anyway since heaven and spirituality have been the real deal all along? Plus, isn't unleashing an arsenal of evils on a world of unsuspecting, helpless victims, and then promising to make up for it in some illusive afterlife sort of like a deadbeat dad giving his kid a black eye and then promising to take him to Disneyland to make up for it?
Isn't killing your disobedient children with death a little too strict anyway? If you were a father on earth, Child Protective Services and the law would be all over you! Not to mention, I just can't figure out why you created debilitating diseases like Spina Bifida, Caudal Regression Syndrome, Cancer, Diabetes, the Diptheria germ, Muscular Dystrophy, and Scleroderma (to name just a few of the many life-altering, death-causing, sin-cursing diseases and conditions you so gracefully sent our way). I also scratch my head wondering why you included the animal kingdom in mankind’s curse. If indeed we are not animals, why must they suffer and die? They committed no sin. Their kind ate no forbidden fruit. Here's one that's got me all tied up: why did you create animals that prey on one another – fang, tooth, and claw – and why did you create parasites like the tapeworm? If tapeworms could, would you expect them to thank you every time you blessed one with a warm, luscious, human stomach to live in? I am confident that believers will continue to praise you for making the great white shark, but I suspect they will wait until they get to shore first. Is this really the way you wanted things to be?
While we're on the subject of right, I must ask how, Lord, in the realm of morals and ethics, you dictate what is "good" and what is "bad"? Do you do a thing because it is "good," or is a thing "good" because you do it? If I say that you do a thing because it is good, this makes morality higher than and independent of you. In effect, it takes you off the moral necessity market because people can now bypass you and go straight to the morals without any god-belief at all. On the other hand, if I say that a thing is good because you do it, then I face the problem that anything you do I am committed to saying is good, no matter how atrocious that act might be. Such is the case with many of the things in your Holy Bible which seem quite inhumane and downright barbaric—forgive me for being so blunt.
Before we get off this morality point, I must ask if it is true what some learned men say who try to defend your conduct when they say that you are neither moral, nor immoral? If this is true, then are all your commandments arbitrary? Do you tell us not to murder simply on a whim? I mean, come on! If you are neither moral, nor immoral then your morals for us have no basis in fact or principle whatsoever. So they must be just randomly selected guidelines and nothing more, right? If this is not the case, and the morals you give us are based on your divine, higher morality, then we are back to the same question with which we began: do you do a thing because it is "good," or is a thing "good" because you do it?
Why did you order Moses to instruct the people to invade the Midianites' homes and kill every man, woman, child, and animal, to keep alive only the virgin women for those horny, Jewish soldiers (Numbers 31:15-18)? If anyone did this today, they'd be given the lethal injection in no time flat, but evidently you would disagree with such a reaction, and instead, be proud of these uncultured barbarians as you were proud of your servant David. Like you, he murdered anyone who crossed him (2 Samuel 4:12; I Chronicles 20:3), but make no mistake about it; you still hold the world record for the most murders, the 2004 tsunami being a case in point, though you still haven't broken your old record set back in the day of Noah's great flood in which you slaughtered the entire world, humans, plants, animals, and all, except for 8 people (1 Peter 3:20). As far as catastrophes go, it's been a while since September 11, 2001 when you decided to punish America because of the nation’s rampant homosexuality and abortion. I mean, if it hadn't been for that tsunami, people might have started to think that you were softening up! I know that at this point, you are getting ready to send me to be sodomized by a demon on the shores of the Lake of Fire and Brimstone for eternity, but like I said, a man must have answers, right?
I have a question as to the merits of eternal damnation for disbelief. If you damn a person to Hell for not believing in you, how is this a just act, seeing that a person can only believe what they find to be true, and if that person only pretended to believe in you when they didn't, they would be hypocrites—and we know you don't want that sort of service (Matthew 7:1-5)! If, for some twisted, unthinkable, insane, out-of-this-world reason I did want to invent a Hell of my own to put powerless, tattered souls into, it would only be temporary to rehabilitate them, but not so with you! Once there, you never let them out. Why Lord?
Well, Lord, I have a good many other questions I would like to ask, like why you preferred the company of lower life forms, such as reptiles and amphibians, to that of humankind for billions of years before you created us—your prized creation. On a side note, why did you give the gecko the ability to grow new arms and legs, but not us? Also, why did you allow sea turtles to live for 200 years, but we only get to live about 70 nowadays? Do you care more about them than your blessed and best creation, man? Surely not, right?
The last big item I would like to inquire about is atheism. According to the Bible, you condemn me for being an atheist. Regardless of any moral virtue or uprightness of character I might have, you believe that I should burn in a lake of fire for an eternity. This is a very discomforting thought indeed, but let me just come right out and ask: are you an atheist, God? I think you are. You don't pray to anyone at all. You worship no higher authority than yourself. You can only swear by yourself because you can swear by no one greater (Hebrews 6:13). You don't go to church, you haven't confessed Jesus, repented of your sins, or been baptized in Jesus' name. You humble yourself before no one, you are not religious, and you alone say what is right and what is wrong for you. You affirm very plainly in your word that "There is no God besides me" (Isaiah 44:6), thus, leaving no room for the possibility that a higher being than you can exist, and what's more, you punish people with eternal misery for not believing in you as the final authority in the cosmos.
You trample on the fallen, crushing the souls and destinies of your wayward, disobedient children who dared to step out of line. So it seems to me that you are not only an atheist, but a galactic dictator, a super-communist, a tyrannical Father Time, a despot like no other, more vicious, dogmatic, and militant that Stalin could ever have hoped to become in a thousand lifetimes. If I'm an atheist like you are, shouldn't a father be proud when he has a son who is like his father? It sounds like we think alike (well, to a very small extent!) So why, Lord, am I going to burn in Hell forever for being an atheist when you yourself are an atheist? Is this yet another case of "do as I say, not as I do" parenting?
I'm afraid there are other ways in which you show yourself hypocritical. The Bible is said to be a book that condemns abortion and recognizes the sanctity of unborn life, but then you don't have any problem killing the unborn to hurt someone else for ticking you off (2 Samuel 12:14; Hosea 13:16). I think I'm getting a double standard here. Are you really no different from the typical, desperate hostage-taker who will resort to whatever terror he can cook up to force his demands? Evidently not. Getting back to atheism, you know just what it would take to convince me of your existence, removing even the slightest of doubts in my mind. Why don't you provide this proof?
Well, Lord, as usual, you've been pretty silent here as I've expressed my thoughts. In fact, I haven't heard a peep out of you yet, ever! I guess I'll never get the answers I want. I have no choice but to continue on my lonely road searching out truth in philosophical naturalism. In all honesty, I am not terribly afraid of you or this Hell place you made because, to me, you have demonstrated irrationality in every area of thought, and with irrationality comes erratic behavior; for all I know, you might change your mind tomorrow and find pleasure in saving atheists for being honest with themselves and their intellects, while getting a kick out of damning to Hell the redneck, backwoods, Bible thumping, fundamentalist Christians who believe in the tall tales that you put in your holy book—who knows, right? Since you are, by definition, an unknowable being, is there any point in even trying to figure you out? Well, enough writing. I'm going to enjoy a cold Dr. Pepper or something.