Freethinking for Dummies

Skepticism, secular humanism, social issues

The God’s Will Fallacy

…during (Timothy) Dwight’s tenure, since he personally delivered more than two hundred sermons to undergraduates on the dangers of religious infidelity. One of his most memorable perorations proclaimed the immorality of smallpox vaccination, introduced by Dr. William Jenner in 1796. An earlier form of inoculation against smallpox had been employed by progressive, educated New Englanders like the Adams family since the 1760s. In a departure from the general eighteenth-century approval of scientific advances—a predilection of many orthodox believers as well as freethinkers—Dwight argued that if God had decided from all eternity that an individual’s fate was to die of smallpox, it was a sin to interfere with the divine plan through a man-made trick like vaccination.”

 

The above quote is from Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism by Susan Jacoby.  It is an excellent example of the inhumanness of a conservative religious mindset.  It is the supernatural version of the Naturalism Fallacy.

 

The Naturalism Fallacy basically assumes that anything that is natural is good and by extension, anything that isn’t natural is bad.  Here we have the supernatural version of that which I shall call the God’s Will Fallacy.  This fallacy assumes that anything that mankind does to change or enhance the human condition is wrong because god made things the way they are and we are flouting the will of god if we try to influence things.

 

This ties back into the Calvinistic principles of Unconditional election and Limited atonement upon which modern conservative Christianity is based.  In a nutshell, Unconditional elections states that those who shall be saved were destined by god from the begging of time to be saved and everyone else was destine to spend eternity in hell.  Limited atonement says that Jesus died only for the sins of the elect.

 

I find these concepts to be grossly arrogant and selfish.  The ideas they promulgate are no different than any other ideology that promotes a select group of people gaining and holding power over everyone else.  We see this in almost every religion.  Christians have their pope, bishops, priests, ministers and pastors. Islam has it’s imams, Hinduism has it’s caste system.  We also see this in secular, mainly political, movements such as kingdoms, dictatorships, oligarchies, and even to a lesser extent, republics.

 

All of these ideologies are about power of the few over the many.  As Baron Acton said, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.”  His observation, while somewhat pedantic and extreme, has real relevancy.  The quote above illustrates this nicely.  Mr. Dwight’s lack of empathy for the suffering of his fellow human beings is corrupted by the fallacy of “God’s Will”.  When put into practice, millions of lives are adversely affected.

 

This is just one example of the corrupting influence that religion can have on society.  This is why we need a popular movement based on the values of humanism.  Values that put the welfare of all human beings first and foremost.

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March 6, 2011 - Posted by | Religion | , , , ,

11 Comments »

  1. “I find these concepts to be grossly arrogant and selfish”

    I don’t hold to Reformed Theology, but this doesn’t make those doctrines false. I know you know that too, so why argue against those particular doctrines from the point of distaste?

    Just because these ideas are unpleasant doesn’t make them false anymore than atheism entailing that when we die we are absolutely gone is unsettling.

    So my question is, why should I not believe Limited Atonement and Unconditional Election are true regardless of their discomfort, arrogance, or selfishness?

    Comment by John Barron Jr. | March 6, 2011 | Reply

    • Mr. Barron,
      A God that would create humans for the purpose of torturing them is unworthy of worship.

      Epicurus was right.

      Comment by Hawker Hurricane | March 7, 2011 | Reply

  2. Unfortunately that too is irrelevant to whether God exists. Whether he is a monster or a saint God is in control. Also whether you believe he deserves worship is irrelevant to his existence. It is also a strawman to introduce the idea of torture, there is a fundamental difference between torment and torture. You should at least onject to an accurate description to Christian theology.

    Comment by John Barron | March 7, 2011 | Reply

  3. Unfortunately that too is irrelevant to whether God exists. Whether he is a monster or a saint God is in control. Also whether you believe he deserves worship is irrelevant to his existence. It is also a strawman to introduce the idea of torture, there is a fundamental difference between torment and torture. You should at least onject to an accurate description to Christian theology. Too many flaws in your argument, perhaps you’ll re

    Comment by John Barron | March 7, 2011 | Reply

    • Mr. Baron,

      If god existed I might even find away to agree with you. If he did and I did I might say that it was gods will that the vaccine be created.

      I find it impossible to reconcile with a theology that is based on a god with a criminally sadistic bent.

      Comment by fribnit | March 7, 2011 | Reply

  4. First, sorry about the sloppy double post, I responded from my phone and it wasn’t responding the way it normally does when I post. My apologies.

    But–and maybe this is the answer in itself– I realize you can’t necessarily fully explore and write about every issue, I guess you have to assume some points just to make your main point. But I think you have assumed too much here.

    If we are going to say “God is evil…” based on some Christian doctrine and some perceived understanding of the biblical description, I think maybe fleshing some examples out a bit would help. But we also have to ask, “is this incident only explainable by evil means?” I thnk sometimes skeptics rush to conclusions based on a cursory browsing of texts.

    So what is criminally sadistic, and why is your conclusion of criminally sadistic the only possible understanding?

    Comment by John Barron Jr. | March 7, 2011 | Reply

  5. I am not saying god is evil. I am saying there is no god.
    A theology the leans so heavily on punishment and the ramifications of offending this god and the notion that suffering is a part of this gods indecipherable plan, simply confirms for me my belief that no god exists.

    Comment by fribnit | March 7, 2011 | Reply

    • I will say there is compelling evidence that, with all the killing done in the name of the Judeo-Christian-Islamic god, a belief in god is evil

      Comment by fribnit | March 7, 2011 | Reply

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