Try to imagine this scenario if you would.
Imagine that you live in a neighborhood overrun by a gang of
extortionists. The leader of this gang demands a number of things from the
residents of the neighborhood. First, he demands your total devotion and
obedience. You must give him his ``due,'' whatever he considers that to be.
Second, you must never, never pay homage to any other extortionist or group
of extortionists. Third, you are expected to abide by a list of rituals and
behave in accordance with his rules, whether or not he and his henchmen do
the same. Fourth, you are expected to respect and obey the authority of any
and all of his henchmen.
In return for obeying these demands, you are promised ``protection''
from harm at the hands of the gang leader's henchmen. The idea, common to
most extortion rackets, is that if you ``pay up,'' the thugs who work for
the extortionist will not break your legs or destroy your property or hurt
your loved ones.
Now, try to imagine that in this case, even if you ``pay up,'' this
is no guarantee that his thugs will not harm you. I think most of us would
consider this low and vile EVEN for an extortion racket. Now, imagine
approaching the ring leader of the gang of thugs and asking him his reasons
for acting this way. Assume, perhaps naively, for the moment, that he does not
have you viciously pummeled by his thugs just for asking this, but that instead
he answers your questions ``seriously.'' When you meet him, he appears not as
a thug or hood, but as a respectable businessman.
``Why is it that even when we obey you and pay homage to you, you
still abuse us and torture us or have your henchmen do this for you?''
``No, you misunderstand, my proscriptions to you are not threats
against you. No, they are warnings, admonishments of what might happen to
you if you don't heed these warnings. I warn you out of concern for you.''
``But even if this is the natural way of the world and you are simply
warning us about things that WILL come to pass through forces of nature, you
are the focus of power in this community, your will defines what happens here.
You wield the power to cause these things to happen or prevent them from
happening. You can choose to unleash your thugs on innocent people or restrain
them from hurting us.''
``That wouldn't be fair now, would it? Who am I to exercise prior
restraint on them? I cannot control what they do. Should I stop them from
hurting you while they continue to hurt others? That would be unjust and
unfair of me, and it's very selfish of you to demand this.''
``But you have another choice you can make. You can just stop letting
loose your henchmen on ANYONE at all! You have the power to make a world in
which your henchmen do not hurt other people. Why do you let them do this, why
do you WILL them to do this? Aren't you responsible for putting them here in
the first place?''
``You're just putting undue emphasis on all these negative things. Why
are you forgetting the time that the Hendersons' house was blown up, and my
people rescued the Jenkins' boy who just happened to be there at the time?''
``But you and your henchmen are the ones who blew up the Hendersons'
house in the first place! How can you take credit for being a deliverer from
evil when you yourself are the very source of the evil?''
``You know, you are meddling in things you just don't understand. You
are not privy to knowledge of this situation that I have. How dare you try to
speak for me about what I should and shouldn't do! You should be more like Joe
B. over there. His house was burnt to the ground, his family was all killed,
all his property was taken from him. Yet here he is, willingly and cheerfully
doing my bidding, whatever I tell him to do. Why can't you do the same?''
If the point I am trying to make hasn't yet become obvious, allow me
this opportunity to clarify. Many people are claiming a definition of God that
equates God to ``love,'' implying that perhaps God's will and God's list of
rules and regulations were simply a codification of the way things are in the
world, that God is ``warning'' us about what we should and shouldn't do lest
horrible things befall us. (This is an effort to rectify inconsistencies in the
answers to the famous question of why, if God is good, there is still evil in
the world. The easy way to rectify this is to realize that the original
premise, ``if God is good,'' is flawed, but some people think that doing things
like redefining ``good'' to mean ``God's will'' can ``make'' that original
premise true.) But what these people forget is that according to their own
beliefs, God designed all of this. He could just as easily have designed a
different world in which disaster did not randomly and capriciously strike at
people's lives. He deliberately chose to design the world so that these things
would happen. The irony comes when God takes credit for ``saving'' these people
from the adversity HE caused, as if to say this is a reason for whorshiping
Him. The belief that God is actually benevolent is nothing but a myth.