Wednesday, March 18, 2009

On John 3:16

" For god so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believed on him should not perish, but have ever lasting life" John 3:16. Most famous verse in the bible. The hallmark of the christian contention that god is love, that the news of the gospel is "good news" and that we are sinners "saved" by grace. On the surface, this verse certainly seems like the definition of altruistic mercy, but just as in life, all that glitters is not gold. There are many,many things we encounter in life that seem to be one thing, but upon closer inspection and longevity of exposure actually turn out to be the opposite. Pitbulls seem to be great dogs until the day they kill a child for no apparent reason. When we sit in a chair,it seems as though our derry-air is in contact with the seat surface,when in reality, what we feel is the miniscule repulsion of trillions and trillions of atoms pushing us away from the their surface. It seems as though we snap opur fingers and we see, hear and decide to do this all at the same moment, but actually the decision to snapthe fingers happens before the act, and we see our fingers snap before we hear them snap. Our mind is a clever mechanism, capable of editing what is offered to us for observation into a false, but seemingly true narrative of observed events.
The christian's contention is that faith is what replaces evidence. The atheist's contention (which is coincidentally mine) is that any extraordinary claim, such as a god existing, must be supported by extraordinary evidence, faith is only circular. This verse states " that whosoever believes on him...." This seems to be a supportive statement of the faith side of things, yes? but let's look closer, shall we...

For god "SO" loved the world. The author could have said " For god loved the world". He did not. By inserting the word "SO" into the sentence he introduced an element of standard of comparison, which is a form of evidence. God didn't just simply love the world. There was a very high degree of affection that god had for the world, high enough to warrant the sacrifice of his son on its behalf (as is evidenced by the use of the word so), as opposed to a very low degree of affection for the world, which would not have warranted such a sacrifice. Using standards of comparison is what we animals do. We weigh the benefits and detriments associated with the options available to us, and use our deterministic brains to guide our behavioral choices. It is a completely natural (nonsupernatural) process. If god SO loved the world that he blah, blah, blah... then god himself was doing the same thing that we lowly animals do all the time. He weighed the benefits and detriments associated with his choices and chose accordingly. He decided to love the world not unconditionally mind you, but to such a degree that his love level would be enough to allow mankind a justified return to grace. Not very godly, not very godly at all. SO this first portion of the verse reveals that the most highly-touted verse in scripture pointing to the wonder of god and the greatness of his love for us, actually is evidence against god being god. Else, why would he need to "SO" love the world, in order to save us. It is easy to see however how a human author of such a story could think that such a wording of a verse would seem to be foolproof in it's evocational ability, but that would be because we humans are nothing but the smartest animals. It has been trial and error all along. I've yet to figure out why religious folks seem to be so averse to the trial and error process. How is it that religious folks need someone who is not going to screw up and learn something by doing so. And how do they come to think that such a scenario is even possible. What makes them think a god existing is even possible? I am getting off track.

We've examined the first part of the verse, so let's continue with the second part.
" that he gave his only begotten son".
Some christians I know argue that evidence does exist for belief in god. It is just evidence that we do not understand, we cannot understand, because god works in mysterious ways. I submit that this part of the verse contradicts such a statement. Infact all of the bible's memorable verses do exactly what this verse does; they frame the sentiment in a context we CAN understand, in this case, love for a child. If god's ways are so mysterious, then how is that the bible ended up being written in such a way that we can understand? Death we understand. Love we understand. Jealousy we understand. Retribution we understand. Justice we understand. Fairness and unfairness we understand. All of these affects are how the bible frames it's messages of life-assurance. This verse is no exception. The author offers as evidence of the level of god's love, the fact that he willingly sacrificed his son, on our behalf. This is a form of evidence, albeit one that is severely deficient in it's degree of verifiable truth. By including the word "So" in the first part of the verse, the author's hands were tied. They had to include some evidence to illustrate the level of love implied by the word "So". So doesn't this give credence to the christian's point? NO. They say simlutaneously, that god's plans are unknowable, because we as humans cannot understand god, but if god were intent on hiding his true nature from us, then why bother giving us a book full of feeble attempts to explain the heavenly nature of he and his minions in words and phrases we are overtly aware of, and completely capable of understanding; love, death, etc...?
Such a book, to those who read it a lot, is both credible evidence for the existence and wonder of god, and impossible for mankind to fully understand, as it is from the unknowable, unfathomable mind of god. This is self-reinforcing logic, and also bull-corn.

Christian : "I'm right, because I understand it, and you're wrong because you don't. The things I don't understand are still true, it's just that I'm not meant to understand them cause I'm not god, and the things I do understand, I can because god has chosen to reveal them to me".

God: " I'm right because I wrote the book, see it says so right here. You're wrong because you can't understand my plans because you are not me, see it says so right here." Bullox!

Enough of the second part, onto the third:
"That whosoever believed on him". This part is self-contradictory to the earlier part of the verse that said that god so loved the WORLD. If god's affection were for the entire world, then this part is unneccessary. Because this section of the verse is included, it makes clear that the verse was authored by a human being. It is riddles with elements of psychological bullying, jealousy, and low self-esteem. Only those who freely choose to believe the verse says the truth, will reap the benefits of exhibiting such faith, all others can literally go to hell. This is not love for the world at large, it is pedantic, juvenile, short-lived and ultimately disingenuous affection for the population that most resembles the author in mindset. Those of like mind will follow suit more easily. Independant thinkers represent more work for the clergy to bring into the fold and thus they quickly become not worth the effort. Infact, this verse reveals that god's affection surely does not extend to the entire world, and furthermore that he could never have intended to extend such affection out to the entire world, all because of the clause included, the catch in the deal... you have to believe.

And so we come to the final part of this awesome verse:
"Would not perish, but have everlasting life." Reward for good behavior. Another example of a context which we lowly humans can fully understand. We know what it is like to receive a reward for good behavior, and what better reward than to be able to live forever, pain-free? But, doesn't logic tell us that if something is the truth it must exist wholly independant of any type of influence. Math is math, It doesn't matter if it is cold outside, or if your mother-in-law is a bitch, 2+2 =4. Math is independant of human concerns. Belief in god however, is intricately tied up with humanity. Infact without humanity, god would be unnecessary. If god actually existed, then the belief we obviously are capable of harboring, should need no reward (such as ever lasting life) attached to it, precisely because of the inimitable truth of it, kinda like math. The truth of the concept would be the truth, and we would recognizeit as such even without the reward, kinda like math. As parents, we bribe our kids all the time, because they won't do what we ask of them otherwise. They are too busy playing to sit down at the table and eat, or wash their hands, or pick up their toys. So I can hear the christian saying right now, that we are like children to god, and he attached the reward of everlasting life so that we would be more inclined to do what he asked of us, knowing that what he was asking of us was in our best interest, even if we did not know it. Yes, that seems to be what we do with our children, but it is not. Picking up toys, eating dinner at the time we have designated, etc... are all things that are in our (parental) best interests, not the children's. A kid will eat when they are hungry, if they break a toy, they will quickly adopt a new one. parents are the ones who want things to be a certain way, and we try our best to instill these ways onto our children, and there is nothing wrong with that, as long as we acknowledge that in reality it is primarily for our benefit that we do such things. God, who doesn't exist, has rewards attached to belief in him, because, the authors and perpetuators of religion know that without such rewards, belief in god becomes a very hard sell indeed. This reveals the falsity of god's existence more than anything else. Because the author included the reward in the verse it reveals that this verse was authored by not an omnipotent god, but a person who was not very sharp in psychology, which makes sense if you consider when the words were probably written.
John 3:16 is not what it seems. It is not an appeal to discard evidence in lieu of belief, it is instead a wholehearted validation of the reliance we all have on evidence. In this case the evidence is not for god's existence but rather for the human authorship of this verse and indeed the entire bible. It shows that god had to wratchet up his level of affection for us to get us back home, it also shows that christians do indeed rely on evidence to "believe" in their premises; evidence like god giving his son, see that shows he loved us so much, he gave his son up....
It also shows that he didn't love the whole world, only the part that loved him back.
It also shows that god was not confident enough in the veracity of his omnipotence, so much that he felt it neccessary to sweeten the deal by attaching immortality to it.
Truth is truth, regardless of how many people believe it. The attempt to sway the populace into his corner, with the offer of immortality is all the evidence I'll ever need to know that god is a figment of the imagination, and nothing else.

1 comment:

Dan said...

Hey bro, I enjoyed reading your blog. I read the two most recent posts. Of course, I totally disagree with your analysis. However, I don't think that fact will hurt your feelings (which is why I said it).

But yeah, it's good to see that you are thinking about this stuff. I have a couple of close friends who deal with these type of arguments. I enjoy this type of discourse.

And yes, I do love the Elegant Universe, took calculus 1,2,3 and differential equations. I am a fan of logic!

One of my favorite debates is between Richard Dawkins and Dr. John Lenox. Good stuff!

But really, man. I wish you and I had stayed friends. I really liked you back in the day.

Dan Bauerkemper