Inventing God

I have heard it asserted by skeptics that God was a tool invented by someone or a group of someones in an effort to control the masses. I’m not sure this makes much sense to me, it never has.  It’s a great ‘what-if’ story, but it’s little more than speculation.  That doesn’t make it a false claim, but it doesn’t rise to the level of ‘in the running’ as an explanation, either.

From where I sit, there is no need to concoct a non-corporeal being who may, or may not, have the power to exact justice for wrong doing when there already exists the means to control behavior: the end of a sword, spear, or gun. Each is greatly more behaviorally corrective than a potential future in hell isn’t it? Threats of force: torture, bodily mutilation, and death, are reliable motivating tools to keep the masses in check.  As Calogero from A Bronx Tale said, “Your guy may be bigger than my guy up there, but my guy is bigger than your guy down here.”  For the most part, people are more motivated by what is immediately confronting them.  Threatening a person with future potential punishment is not as effective as an officer of authority standing before you with a weapon. This is real world provable. If you’re ever in the unfortunate predicament of being robbed at knife point, tell the robber he may end up in hell and observe his reaction. When he stops laughing, point a gun in his face and observe his change in behavior.

In the end, inventing a punishing God is an unnecessary cog in the bureaucratic scheme if the desired end is behavioral compliance.

** For bonus points try to come up with something that wholly does not exist now.  For example, a unicorn merely combines two existing things and would not qualify because horses exist and horns exist.  Personally, I can’t do it, I tried all day yesterday.  It should be easy though, right?

Comments

  1. As a skeptic I will respond to first two sentences:

    “I have heard it asserted by skeptics that God was a tool invented by someone or a group of someones in an effort to control the masses. I’m not sure this makes much sense to me, it never has. ”

    By saying that the above assertion (by whomever) doesn’t make any sense to me, either.

    I would suggest that everyone read Karen Armstrong’s “A History of God”:
    http://books.google.com/books/about/A_History_Of_God.html?id=7J_vp4X28JAC

    Here is another interesting and informative website:
    http://religiousstudiesblog.blogspot.com/2010/12/el-yahweh-and-development-of-monotheism.html

    It really is a subject worth examining for the believer and unbeliever alike.

  2. “I have heard it asserted by skeptics that God was a tool invented by someone or a group of someones in an effort to control the masses.”

    I think religion can be USED to control the masses, but I don’t think it was INVENTED to control the masses. Important distinction there.

    More likely religion was used, in antiquity, to solve many of the problems they had no ability to solve themselves. The Sun, diseases, death, creation, comfort for death and perceived injustices etc. Relgion also served as a form of entertainment. The stories of the God’s told by village elders were not doubt entertaining. It provided community and a sense of belonging (as it does today). Only later it was used an abused to justify all sorts of things.

    “For the most part, people are more motivated by what is immediately confronting them.”

    Except for those things they have no ability to explain or control. Like death, social injustice, etc. It makes people feel better to believe that God will correct it all in the end.

    “In the end, inventing a punishing God is an unnecessary cog in the bureaucratic scheme if the desired end is behavioral compliance.”

    Not true. If you want to convince a body of people that their actions are justified a good way to do it is via religion. We see that with the Christian crusades, terrorist acts by Muslims, Multiple cults, etc. Religion can be a powerful form of cohersion and certainly result in “the desired end of behavioral compliance”.

  3. Hello John,

    Karen Armstrong is awesome.

    But if you want another source you can always read:

    http://www.jackmiles.com/Home/books/god-a-biography

    My favorite book regarding God’s origin and history:

    http://www.amazon.com/The-Last-Testament-A-Memoir/dp/1451640188

    I recommend it to everyone.

    • I’m glad you recognize that Karen Armstrong’s credibility on theological issues is comparable a comedy writer. We definitely agree on that.

      Also I see why you believe the things you do given thats where you get your religion history from.

  4. There is a little evidence and a little speculation. For example, we can ask former cult followers and former followers of religions (Jahovah witness, Catholic, Mormons, Scientology, etc.) what made them turn to the religion. The explanation I gave above are the reasons they describe. So it follows that is a good explanation of all religious existence. There are books written on the subject as well – on the origins of religion – that track the oral development of religion and how it persists and changes over time. All point to the ideas I mentioned above. So is there proof. I think that merits proof.

    • We’re not asking about why people adopt an existing religious belief, I am asking for evidence that God/religion was invented to control. Something more tangible than “perhaps” or “probably” or “theres a good chance that…” I’m asking for proof. You know, proof like Atheists demand.

  5. I already addressed that in my first comment.

  6. Hello John Barron,

    You say, “I’m glad you recognize that Karen Armstrong’s credibility on theological issues is comparable a comedy writer. We definitely agree on that. ”

    Don’t be silly. I am suggesting that the Bible’s claims regarding God are no more valid than a comedian’s.

    But there are plenty of books available. You can read “The Future of an Illusion”:
    http://firmitas.org/FreudFuture.html

    “Religion is a system of wishful illusions together with a disavowal of reality, such as we find nowhere else but in a state of blissful hallucinatory confusion. Religion’s eleventh commandment is “Thou shalt not question.”
    ― Sigmund Freud, The Future of an Illusion

    “Where questions of religion are concerned, people are guilty of every possible sort of dishonesty and intellectual misdemeanor.”
    ― Sigmund Freud, The Future of an Illusion

    “We tell ourselves how lovely it would be, would it not, if there were a God who created the universe and benign Providence, a moral world order, and life beyond the grave, yet it is very evident, is it not, that all of this is the way we should inevitably wish it to be. And it would be even more remarkable if our poor, ignorant bondsman ancestors had managed to solve all these difficult cosmic questions.”
    http://www.goodreads.com/work/quotes/77693-die-zukunft-einer-illusion

    His book “Moses and Monotheism” is also recommended:
    http://www.nytimes.com/2007/09/09/magazine/09wwln-lede-t.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

    Then there is a modern book which I recommend: “Yahweh and the Gods and Goddesses of Canaan”:

    http://lehislibrary.wordpress.com/2008/10/28/excerpt-from-yahweh-and-the-gods-and-goddesses-of-canaan-by-john-day/

    The question of God’s origin and evolution has been answered by modern scholarship.

  7. It is fascinating to me that David will take any opinion or assertion that conflicts with the possibility of a Supreme Being and regard it as proof of anything. How desperate he must be to wish God didn’t exist!

  8. Hello Marshal,

    You say, “It is fascinating to me that David will take any opinion or assertion that conflicts with the possibility of a Supreme Being and regard it as proof of anything. How desperate he must be to wish God didn’t exist! ”

    I don’t deny the existence of a Supreme Being. There is no need to make a denial when the argument on behalf of a Supreme Being is vacant. Christians don’t feel any need to make an argument since they are content to base their religion upon blind faith, empty promises and the carrot-and-stick of Heaven & Hell.

    That may be good enough for a Christian but it isn’t good enough for everyone else.

  9. “Christians don’t feel any need to make an argument since they are content to base their religion upon blind faith, empty promises and the carrot-and-stick of Heaven & Hell.”

    I thought you said you’ve studied the issue of religion. You say so many things that makes your study more of a joke than that of Dan Trabue’s. The arguments for the existence of God are many and based upon facts and evidence. People like you simply deny using pretenses such as that which I’ve highlighted above. Any serious opponent of the Christian position, any honorable opponent, would never pretend such a statement was serious and/or true.

  10. Hello Marshal,

    You claim, “The arguments for the existence of God are many and based upon facts and evidence. ”

    If you say so … you probably should mention these fact-and-evidence based arguments if you wish to claim that they exist. Your failure to mention these arguments suggests that they don’t actually exist.

  11. But you deny evidence is valid. The Books of the New Testament are all books of testimonies and testimonies, as any legal expert can tell you, is evidence. Attempts to color these testimonies as “inventions” or “scams” or any number of other nastiness, have all been met with far better responses.

    Then there are the philosophical arguments, such as the Kalaam Cosmological Argument, which as can clearly be seen, is a bit more than mere fabrications, having reasoned through all the same evidence existing and used by atheists to come to other conclusions.

    Then there is Stephen C. Meyer who uses same method of inquiry as Darwin.

    The last two are examples of sources of info regarding evidence from science for the existence of a Supreme Being/Intelligent Designer.

    I await your typical stock dismissals.

  12. Hello Marshal,

    The New Testament’s status as adequate testimony has been refuted too many times and for so very long that it is really sad to hear Christians continue with the same old tired worn out argument.

    Science doesn’t actually provide any evidence for the existence of a Supreme Being / Intelligent Designer. These arguments you offer misrepresent science. Anyhow, such arguments do not support the existence of any Biblical god whether Yahweh, Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit or Mother Mary.

  13. And there we have it: the very typical dismissals I was expecting. I’m now asking you for at least the third time for an example of a contradiction between Gospels that you think is impossible to resolve. I have one in mind for which I have heard no solid explanation by any Christian apologist, and if you pick that one, I’ll cop to it but expect another. I recall you mention people like Bart Ehrmann, but he’s been thoroughly thrashed by people like William Lane Craig. That NT testimonies have been refuted means nothing as long as those critiques have had plenty of rebuttal. But you, as I have come to believe with good cause, do no more than latch onto anything that denies God in any way, and pretend that’s the end of the story, as if you were AlGore talking about global warming.

    Your second paragraph shows the same. Science provides only data. How that data is analyzed is what counts, and the proponents of ID (for example), provide the explanation for how that data indicates an intelligent designer, and does so far more convincingly than any who hold a different conclusion. There is no “misrepresentation” of the science behind ID.

    Also, I never put forth ID as a direct proof of the God of the Bible, but only offered it as evidence that leads to that conclusion, which is the best anyone can do to argue for or against His existence. Christians are quite cool with science and do not see a conflict between it and the faith. But people like you seek to drive a wedge between the two. You are so desperate to believe that there is no God. So sad and pathetic are you.

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