I recently saw a post on Facebook that went as follows:
“LOVE VS. SEX: A teenage girl about 17 had gone to visit some friends one evening and time passed quickly as each shared their various experiences of the past year. She ended up staying longer than planned, and had to walk home alone. She wasn’t afraid because it was a small town and she lived only a few blocks away. As she walked along under the tall elm trees, Diane asked God to keep her safe from harm and danger. When she reached the alley, which was a short cut to her house, she decided to take it. However, halfway down the alley she noticed a man standing at the end as though he was waiting for her. She became uneasy and began to pray, asking for God’s protection. Instantly a comforting feeling of quietness and security wrapped round her, she felt as though someone was walking with her. When she reached the end of the alley, she walked right past the man and arrived home safely. The following day, she read in the newspaper that a young girl had been raped in the same alley just twenty minutes after she had been there. Feeling overwhelmed by this tragedy and the fact that it could have been her, she began to weep. Thanking the Lord for her safety and to help this young woman, she decided to go to the police station. She felt she could recognize the man, so she told them her story. The police asked her if she would be willing to look at a lineup to see if she could identify him. She agreed and immediately pointed out the man she had seen in the alley the night before. When the man was told he had been identified, he immediately broke down and confessed. The officer thanked Diane for her bravery and asked if there was anything they could do for her. She asked if they would ask the man one question. Diane was curious as to why he had not attacked her. When the policeman asked him, he answered, “Because she wasn’t alone. She had two tall men walking on either side of her.” Amazingly, whether you believe or not, you’re never alone. Did you know that 98% of teenagers will not stand up for God? Repost this as Love vs. Sex if you truly believe in God.PS: God is always there in your heart and loves you no matter what and if you stand up for him he will stand up for you. I bet 93% of the people that read this wont repost it.”
I won’t be doing a point by point rebuttal, instead, I’ll be responding to the arguments which can be used to explain the behavior and potential outcomes, but in the meantime, I’ll be commenting on the post as a whole.
While most would think that a post like this makes their god look good, the truth is, it doesn’t. What it does is make their god look horrible. Now, the main question would be “What about this could make a god look bad?” Well, consider the trilemma attributed to Epicurus, which goes as follows.
“Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then He is not omnipotent.
Is He able, but not willing? Then He is malevolent.
Is He both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil?
Is He neither able nor willing? Then why call Him God?”
Now, the god in question, as indicated by the capitalization of the letter g, is thought to possess these characteristics by many of those who follow it
a) all good
b) all powerful
c) all knowing
d) all loving
meaning that the trilemma is certainly applicable. A deity who is all good would certainly be willing to prevent evil. So, what is the explanation for why the second was raped, while the first was unharmed? We don’t know if the second one had prayed or not, as her side of the story and actions are not indicated by what is presented. What the reader is left to imply is that she had not prayed due to the outcome. Just to see what we do know about the situation of the second is what is presented here:
The following day, she read in the newspaper that a young girl had been raped in the same alley just twenty minutes after she had been there. Feeling overwhelmed by this tragedy and the fact that it could have been her, she began to weep.
So, nothing to go off of which indicates if she prayed or not.
In the case that she did pray, the god in question did not protect her. In the case that she didn’t pray, the god in question knew what would happen and did nothing to grant the same protections to those who would go by after the first. Either way, the god in question is certainly at fault according to the common interpretation among Christians, because according to the common interpretation
- He was able to protect both
- He knew the intentions of the person at the end of the alley
So it brings into question why the deity in question, within the context of the story, didn’t do anything. There was nothing preventing him from doing so. So was it a matter of nothing providing incentive to do so? If that is the case, it brings into question, what could stir something that is supposedly beyond human comprehension? Within the context of the story, the probable answer is that it is the prayer. So then, placing the story within the context of reality, it brings into question, what would distinguish her from the hundreds of thousands who’ve prayed for protection from genocides, from rape, from mutilation, from any number of things, and not only for themselves, but for those around them? Nothing which can be determined from the story. So, a normal person who prays is protected, yet the many others who’ve prayed are ignored. Some Christians will say that you have to pray in a certain way, or that you have to have the right sense of mind, or that you have to be in the presence of the Holy Spirit, or that you have to have acknowledged your sins prior to the prayer, or any number of things which we can’t know if they did or not, but given the number, it is safe to say that some probably did any of the things which can be said to be essential to having a prayer answered. It leaves only one option when the story is included in the context of reality. Special pleading. We are asked to ignore every single prayer of a similar nature that wasn’t answered, and everything to the contrary of the claims made, to conclude that the character of the god referred to in the story is good. Not to mention, if it is the conditions of the prayer, it would suggest that the god would care more about being asked correctly than the person making the request, to the point of neglecting the safety of the person praying for protection.
Potential Counter Arguments
CA: But we don’t know if any deity’s exist. Why even bring this up?
Response: The goal of the “How to Avoid Making Your Deity Look Like an Asshole” series is to grant theists the assumption that a deity exists, specifically theirs, and how to avoid, do I have to repeat myself? Making their deity look like an asshole.
CA: Maybe God isn’t all powerful, so why would he be expected to protect everybody?
Response: In that instance, it would fall into the category of
Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then He is not omnipotent.
which brings into question, why do so many Christians believe that their god is omnipotent? After all, there are verses to the contrary of the belief of omnipotence, so it wouldn’t be unfounded, but working on the assumption that the god described in the Bible isn’t all powerful, it makes it questionable why the Bible, the recognized holy book of the Christian Religion, would have verses such as John 14:12-14, which states that whatever you ask for in the name of Jesus will be granted. So, at the very least, it is possible for him to have protected both girls. Once again though, if he didn’t protect the other because she didn’t pray in the right way, it means that he cares more about how he’s addressed than the person asking for protection, to the point of neglecting their safety. If he didn’t protect the other, despite knowing the intentions of the person as the end of the alley, it would mean that it would fall under the malevolent category on account of the fact that he was able to protect her, but unwilling to do so. If he wasn’t able to protect her, then it is worthless to even propose an offer such as what is described in John 14:12-14, which brings into question how much the deity can be trusted on, or he was lying. Pick your poison. Cares more about being addressed properly. Able to but didn’t, making him appear malevolent. Unable to and lied, which brings into question why it lied. Unable to but offered, which brings into question how much the deity in question can be trusted on.
CA: Is it possible that this is just an urban myth? If that’s the case, why address the story?
Response: Regardless of if it is an urban myth, things like this make the deity look horrible. Unfortunately, prayers of all sorts can be said to have been answered by various deities, while those asking for the same thing to the same deity have been ignored for one reason or another. So while only a story or urban myth, it can be used to demonstrate how people make their deity look like an uncaring entity, and why this sort of thing makes it look bad. Its a pretty sad statement when an atheist does more to help theists avoid making their deity/deities of choice look bad than other theists do.
CA: Despite the cruelty of events like this, perhaps they serve a greater purpose?
Response: If that is the case, it would lead me to think of the one quote from Issac Asimov in the Foundation Series
Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent.
which brings into question, if it was the first refuge of that god, would it make him look any better? And if it did serve a greater purpose, it brings into question why it is that an omnibenevolent god, as the common interpretation would suggest, would even resort to harming people in order to bring about the best outcome, especially in the case that it is all knowing, as that would suggest that it should also be able to find a better way to reach the same point. Yet it doesn’t. That would then go back to “Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent.”
CA: But God isn’t at fault that the second girl got raped, it’s <sin, the devil, etc> fault that she got raped.
Response: In the case of sin version, then the god in question would’ve still known the intention of the man at the end of the alley, and still would’ve been able to protect the person who was raped just like he did with the first person. In the case of the devil/Lucifer/Satan version, aside from the theological questions that such a statement would raise about “Is God weaker than his opposition?” as the opposition was able to overwhelm his will, leading to bad things happening, but without an answer to that question, there are three potential outcomes to the question. If no, God is stronger than his opposition, then there is no excuse. If no, but he is on par with his opposition, then that would be about the only way out, but it also raises questions about the value of prayer if he isn’t guaranteed to be able to grant what is requested through the prayer, even when life and death is on the line. If yes, then it brings into question the accuracy of books such as the Book of Revelations, in which the God in question is said to beat the Devil. Of course, that is ignoring all of the ideas about the origins of the Book of Revelations.
If you have any counter arguments of your own, either to statements made in the commentary or in the responses to potential counter arguments, feel free to present them.
Minor complaints about the post.
“Amazingly, whether you believe or not, you’re never alone.”
There are just some aspects about language that make me think that skepticism is discouraged. Belief doesn’t matter. The question I’d have to ask the people who came up with statements like this, is “How do you know that?” From there, there are a lot of potential answers, and as of yet, I haven’t seen any that would really work.
“Did you know that 98% of teenagers will not stand up for God?”
Honestly, this gives me a bit of hope. It means 98% of teenagers will treat the concept of the abrahamic god like an adult, and quit making excuses for him.
“Repost this as Love vs. Sex if you truly believe in God.”
So encourage dishonesty when it helps the deity you believe in. Wonderful.
“PS: God is always there in your heart and loves you no matter what”
Not enough to destroy Hell, and instead uses it as a threat, summed up as “If you don’t worship me, I’m going to send you to hell. If you don’t do what I say, I’m going to send you to hell.” What sort of loving deity would use the threat of eternal punishment for finite acts?
“I bet 93% of the people that read this wont repost it.”
I bet its because they don’t need people like me to point out how things like this make the deity look bad, and as a result, don’t do it. Or they don’t believe in the deity that is used in the story like me. Either way, that kinda gives me some hope.