The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 24a
Some Attributes of God
Some Attributes of God.
In 1860, the writer of the following fragments was induced to visit a hall occasionally on Sunday evenings, when Mr. S——, an immersed Christian, lectured, and invited discussion on various points in theology, advertising each subject in the papers of the preceding day. As on more than ten minutes on each evening was allowed by Mr. S——for the remarks of any visitor, the writer put what he had to say in writing on two or three occasions, in order to condense and emphasize it as much as possible.
The subject advertised for Sunday, the 25th November, 1866, was "Some Attributes of God," when the following remarks were read by their author, in the ten minutes accorded to him:—
You will find it thus written in the 45th chapter of Isaiah, and in the 7th verse:—" I form the light, and create darkness : I make peace, and create evil: I the Lord do all these things." Also, in the 3rd chapter of Amos, and in 6th verse—"Shall there be evil in a city, and the Lord bath not done it?"
I propose to apply to these texts and the Christian notions of God an axiom of my own, by which I test every proposition, theological or other, wise. I find it simple and invaluable, and think its truth can scarcely be questioned by any reasonable person. It is this—
Of the terms of a contradiction one must necessarily be false; and any proposition which involves a contradiction must as certainly be false also.
The Christian God is asserted to be completely omniscient, omnipotent, and good; in fact, no intelligent man can now recognise as God any being who is not all that those words mean. Yet Christians and believers in the Bible hold that this God creates millions of men, who he knows beforehand must inevitably be tortured for ever in bell, without any hope of relief to them, or of good result to anyone.
I ask, Are such creations good acts?
Was the creation of Satan, in full view of the awful evil consequences, a good act?
Could Satan himself commit a worse?
As there may be a few irregular Christians here, who do not assert a real hell or devil, I put the same question to them thus:—The infliction, or permission, of the gratuitous pain, daily, of millions of harmless animals, and of thousands of innocent babies, racked with colic and excruciating diseases,—burnt alive, &c. I, and doubtless most of yon, have seen and heard pure innocent babies, after living for weeks, at last page 3 die, shrieking with agony. Is this good? Is there an ignorant, hardened criminal in this Melbourne gaol who would deliberately inflict such useless pain on such innocent, helpless beings if he could possibly avoid it? I know no man so bad. Is God worse? Does he want the mill, or the power, to prevent this cruel, motiveless torture? Is the omnipotent unable to take a poor baby out of the world without hurting it so pain-fully, so wantonly, so unrelentingly? Or-does divine loving-kindness watch with holy joy the convulsive pangs of those innocent, tender, quivering little limbs? Are these his tender mercies?
Plutarch said, "I would rather they should say, 'there was no such man as Plutarch,' than that 'he was cruel and unjust.' "
There is a common sense of right in every man which, in spite of Bibles and rotten systems of religion, admires Plutarch's saying, and revolts at what is involved, necessarily, in any conception of the Christian God.
This Christian God, according to St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans (ix. 18), loved Jacob, and hated Esau! What follows? It being maintained that We are to regulate our conduct, not by what our best reason judges to be right and good, but so as to please the same being that loved a despicable villain like Jacob, and that hated Esau, almost the only man shewn in the Bible as capable of frankly forgiving his worst enemy when he had him in his power! Hated Esau! of whom no wrong is recorded! Is Jacob to be our pattern? Is this morality? Is it right? Are we really, if we would earn a blessing, bound to imitate (and we are if we receive this story as divine) one who deliberately swindled and robbed his famishing brother, cheated and lied to his dying father, and actually presumed to dictate terms (Genesis xxviii. 20, 21, 22) and such terms! bread, raiment, safe conduct—to his God, as those only on which he would recognise him! Jacob and his God were worthy of each other.
To earn the love of the Christian God we must cheat and lie; to deserve his hate, we have only to forgive our enemies!
Of course, we all know that elsewhere the precept is laid down, "love your enemies!" But we are expressly told that Jacob Got the blessing, and that Esau did Not; and such facts—If Facts—have more weight than fifty precepts. Also, the contradiction of one text by another only destroys the authority or credit of both, but cannot lessen the iniquity of either.
In any case, it is only proved too clearly that sanction for the grossest immorality, quite as much as for the contrary, is afforded by the Bible; which fully accounts for the fact that the history of Christianity is one long tale of intolerance, of blood, of torture, fire and stake.
Christians! or Theists! if you insist upon, or cannot help, constructing a colossal phantom of omnipotence and omniscience, a personal God, out of nothing but your own imagination and credulous fear, at least remember that it is absolutely impossible to divest it of. direct responsibility for all the wanton pain, evil, and crime in the universe. If you mill, in the face of all experience, imagine a first cause of everything, that first cause of page 4 All must be Therefore the real cause, and if omniscient, the malevolent cause of all evil and crime.
It is a mere subterfuge, as miserable as futile, to endeavor to divide this omnipotent, omniscient personality into two—a God and a Devil. They must be one and the same. The supposition that God created the Devil is as impious as absurd, for you cannot deny Satan any attribute of God. You say God advisedly and premeditatedly made pain and sin, though being omnipotent, he needed not to do it, to accomplish any of his purposes. And you say the Devil's acts produce pain and sin, and that that is wrong in him, solely because He Needs not to do it. What difference is there? None whatever, morally. But Christianity makes Satan superior. In omniscience, omnipresence, and, as we have seen, morally, he is at least equal to God, but vastly superior in power. He constantly and successfully thwarts God! gets a thousand to God's one, terribly anxious as God is for all! The devil is, then, the real Christian God. The Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are subordinate persons in Christian theology. This explains the anomalies in the story of the fall of man in Eden, where the solemn assertion of God that Adam should surely die the same day that he disobeyed was proved false by the event, while the serpent is said to have spoken the truth; and where also the evil being is made the one who led man to the knowledge of good and evil, and the good being the one that wanted to keep him from it! These contradictions can be evaded by equivocation only. This accounts, likewise, for the apparent discrepancy between 2 Samuel xxiv. t, and 1 Chronicles xxi. 1, where "the Lord" and "Satan" are used as convertible terms; also the God-and-devil-confounding system of sacrificial worship. What benevolent creator could enjoy or permit such wanton destruction of his creatures, over whom all his tender mercies extend? The horrid idea of hell naturally grew out of such an atrocious system. What tender mercies are over those condemned to, and created for, eternal agony? As Mr. Barlow says—" Are they not his creatures? If everlasting torments are the result of tender mercies, I should very much like to know what would be the result of deadly hatred?"
Some persons have been so rash as to suggest that evil is used by God for the purpose of producing greater good!—that he does evil that good may come! But what says St. Paul, in his epistle to the Romans, iii. 8, of those who slanderously affirmed that mere men like him said, "Let us do evil that good may come?"
"Whose damnation is just!"
And what fate can be too severe for those who blasphemously affirm it of the God they profess to adore?
What contradictions can be plainer than these? what more blasphemous against natural intelligence and truth—still more against our best criteria of virtue?
Of the terms of a contradiction one must necessarily be false, and any proposition involving a contradiction must as certainly be false also.