Traditional Religion's God Problem


A holy view of evolution solves traditional religion's God problem.

What is 'traditional religion's God problem'? Simply this: If taken together and interpreted literally, the world's religious scriptures portray God in ways that we all know in our hearts cannot possibly be true. For example, all of us (even atheists!) know that God cannot possibly be schizophrenic, nor a tribal-cosmic terrorist. Yet that is precisely the view that the world's sacred texts collectively offer. That's traditional religion's God problem.

Please know that I am not exaggerating or overstating the case, and I'm certainly not dissing religion! It is an easily verifiable fact that if you look at the world's religious literature as a whole, God supposedly says and does lots of contradictory, mutually exclusive things. Some traditions say "God is like this, He said this, and He did that." Others say, "NO, God is like this, He (or She) said this, and did that." If all these tales are true, God is either schizophrenic or suffers from multiple personality disorder. Saying "our stories are true and all others are myth" doesn't make the problem go away for humanity as a whole.

And it gets worse before it gets better.

Most religious traditions portray God as exhibiting the very best of human traits toward the tribe or in-group ("those who believe or act like this..."), and the most horrific of human traits toward the out-group (those who fail to believe or act in the prescribed manner). For example, the U.S. Department of Defense defines terrorism as "the calculated use of violence or the threat of violence to inculcate fear; intended to coerce or to intimidate others in the pursuit of goals that are generally political, religious, or ideological." In a post 9-11 world, we all understand this. Yet a literal reading of the Bible or Koran portrays God exactly in that light. As atheist Mike Earl painstakingly shows in Bible Stories Your Parents Never Taught You and The Ultimate Terrorist, in passage after passage in the Hebrew scriptures, in the early Christian scriptures, and in the Qur'an, God is said to employ the calculated use of violence or the threat of violence to inculcate fear—and he does so for religious reasons. By anyone's definition, that's terrorism.

So here's traditional religion's God problem in a nutshell: Religious people of all faiths know that none of this is true. God is not tribal and petty. God does not have multiple personality disorder. And God is not a cosmic terrorist. Yet as anyone who has carefully read their Bible or Koran can testify, some passages of Holy Writ undeniably portray God this way. That is traditional religion's God problem. That's the elephant in the living room that no one other than atheists are willing to talk about. It is why millions are embarrassed by scripture (though they'd never admit it), and why millions of others are leaving organized religion altogether.

A meaningful, science-based worldview solves this problem once and for all. A sacred evolutionary understanding of the universe, and of human consciousness and culture, evaporates this problem because it helps us see what an inevitable yet illusory view of the Creator this is. I'll elaborate on this in future blog posts.