Saturday, August 27, 2011

Nature's cruelty

I recently saw a wildlife TV show which was documenting an attack by lions on a badger.  The lions had firm grips on the badger in their teeth and were pulling it in opposite directions, but did not actually tear it into pieces.  The badger was crying and screaming in terrible pain for about 35 minutes, until it finally stopped and died.  Afterward, the lions did not eat it.  They killed it for reasons besides food.

How does the above description make you feel?  Is it sad?  Horrible?  Sickening?  Or is it good and glorious?  I think many Christians , or anybody else who believes their deity made everything and is perfect and all-good, would be stuck arguing that it's good.

Nature is terribly cruel.  There is immense pain and suffering everywhere, often for no reason at all.  And yet this is the system that Christians believe their perfect and perfectly-good god designed.  By definition of its alleged qualities of omnipotence and omniscience, it could have designed any system it wanted, and it designed this.  I've pressed Christians on the issue before, and often get answers along the lines of it all being for a reason, or some have even argued that things even as terrible as genocide can be good, if they're done by their god.

Now let me ask a question.  What if I did this?  What if I designed a situation in which predatory animals tore apart another animal, causing it incredible pain?  Let's say I have some trained attack dogs and I throw a cat into their pen.  I watch the dogs tear at the cat, torturing it and causing it tremendous pain.  Then, when I'm satisfied, I give the dogs the cue to kill it.  I repeat it, again and again, always using new ways to make the animal suffer.  I then lean back and call myself good.  Not just 'good', but 'perfectly-good'.  The standard of good by which all other deeds by all other beings should be measured.

What do you think the courts and general public would have to say about my actions?  In most developed and (relatively) civilised countries, I'd be hated and cursed by the public.  I'd also be charged with animal cruelty and perhaps given a psychiatric evaluation.  I'd be a pariah.  What do you think, Christians?  Is there any way you could call that good?  Why not?  I didn't torture the animals, I just designed and set-up the system, like your god did.  And your god is completely good.  Right?

This isn't any reason to think that a god didn't design the current system, but it does cast into doubt some of the qualities that such a god might have.  I can see at least a couple of scenarios.  One is that the god is not omnipotent, and was not capable of designing a more cruelty-free system.  This was the best it could do, for whatever reason.  Another option is that the god is omnipotent and/or could have done better, but is a cruel and evil bastard, with little to no compassion for life.

If I were granted omnipotence, I'd override the current system.  I'd stop all of the cruelty in nature and create a system in which the animals can live together without harming each other, and even use their special skills to help each other out.   It's a type of scenario found in many stories for children.  I'd also stop animal deaths and suffering due to starvation, thirst, disease, etc.  I'd do this because I'm a good person and I have compassion.  The people who construct these universes for children's stories are probably also good and compassionate people.  If you prefer my style of world to the system we have now, then you're probably a good and compassionate person, too.

The bottom line, Christians, is that I am better (as in, more good) and more moral than your supposed god.  The only thing keeping me from getting rid of the system we have now is a lack of power to do so.

For more ways that I am better than the Christian god, see this post.


Kevin said...

Great post!

It constantly amazes me how christians claim they get their morality from the bible. They don't for the most part despite their claims.

For one particularly funny example of god's immorality check out genesis 18 where Abraham learns that god is planning on destroying Sodom. Abraham, concerned for his nephew Lot's safety, begins negotiating with god not to destroy the city. He barters with god that if he can find 50 righteous people in the city will god still destroy it? No he won't, says god. Abraham then proceeds to haggle god all the way down to only having to find 10 righteous people.

It's a funny story because, for one, you'd think the creator of the universe would not have such terrible aim as to have to destroy a whole city just to wipe out a bunch of bad people. For two, you'd also think the founder of all morality would not have to be bargained with in order to save innocent lives.

Flyger said...

Perfect post. This concept actually applies to a great many issues in modern morality as well.

Getting down to practicality is really the best way to present and solve a problem. This is an issue I have in general with philosophy (but not always) and religion (always).

Anonymous said...

Interesting post, I'm an atheist myself. I guess you find arrogance to be a necessary accessory to make the point. Personally, I think modesty is a virtue to appreciate regardless of religion.

Admin said...

Argh... another post basically saying that I'm correct but I should spare the feelings of the poor deluded religious people. What exactly is so arrogant about my post? Please explain. And to be perfectly clear, I don't give a damn about sparing their feelings or about how you feel about modesty.

Unknown said...

i hope god is not omnipotent , otherwise we are in serious trouble

Jim said...

Well, good news! Gods don't exist! So stop worrying.

Anonymous said...

Nature is not cruel, nature just is what it is. You are just applying human sentimentality to “nature” a force so large and diverse as to be incomprehensible to our minds.

Christianity does not treat humans and animals the same and unless you're some kind of Jain I'm sure you don't either. Christians believe Man cannot sin against nature only against God. There is no “system” in which genocide is good or bad, only men and women exercising their free will to do good or evil. Man can make a personal decision to act in accordance with God's law or against it. The natural world was given Man by God for our own needs.

Genesis 1:28
And God blessed them, and God said unto them, be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.

I think it's rather ironic for you an athiest to have any concern for compassion toward animals seeing as science has progressed on the back of animal experimentation and the human race hasn't starved to death thanks to large scale farming practices.

The Earth or the “system” as you call it is not heaven. This is the material realm where Man's soul is tested.

Your assertion that you would redesign nature so as not to be “cruel” is as absurd as it is childish. Your article is also arrogant as somebody already said. It's not about sparing other people's feelings, it's just about not looking like a self important wind bag. Oh but wait, you're a better and more moral person than everybody else so it doesn't matter what I think....

Admin said...

I will not respond to any part of your comment until you can back up the preaching with a reason to believe that it's actually true, or you can make your argument without preaching. I do not accept your book as true or important, and this invalidates your argument here.

Anonymous said...

Nature is indeed cruel regardless of what religious people say. Religious people defend, justify, and execuse the cruelty of the God they worship, so naturally they will either 1) deny that Nature is cruel or 2) they admit that Nature is cruel but they defend and justify it in order to defend and justify the God they worship.
Nature has a Jekyll and Hyde personality. The thiings in Nature which cause pain, suffering, and death are called Natural evils. Predation, violence, diseases, venoms, poisons, parasites, overpopulation, mass starvation, intense cold, intense heat, hurricanes, tsunamis, aging, and death are all examples of Natural evils. Centipedes, black widow spiders, jellyfish, sharks, crocodiles, mosquitoes, ticks, screw worm flies, heart disease, stroke, aneurysm, tooth decay etc cause suffering and death to both people and animals. Theres evidence of diseases such as cancer, tooth decay, and arthritis in Dinosaurs during the Cretaceous period, Mesozoic era, and mosquitoes, flies, and internal worms also tormented Dinosaurs and as everyone knows, many Dinosaurs killed and ate eachother.
If a God created these monstrous cruelties and horrors, then its either partly evil, or insane, or amoral, or mentally blind and morally blind. Or it just isnt powerful enough or isnt smart enough to do a better job and was unable to prevent evil in His creation. Its a DEFICIENT creator. Or maybe Natural evils were created the Devil or by Satan and demons. Or maybe Satan and demons, whike being unable to create anything, have the power to change and corrupt things which already exist. Maybe the original creation was good until Satan and demons entered the picture and corrupted and ruined the originally good creation. If so, why has God allowed it? Why allow Satan and demons to tamper, corrupt, ruin, and torment your creation? We still dont know and still cant explain why people and animals suffer so much. The Devil and evil rules this world. A loving God does not.

Sue said...

Blaming God for the consequences of human sin is somewhere along the lines of yelling at the collection-agent when he or she interrupts your dinner - uh, had you budgeted your money....hello?

Admin said...

I'll ignore for a moment that the evidence shows this has been going on since long, long before humans existed. Are you suggesting that your god had no power to either design the system differently or to avoid punishing all creatures for the "sins" of one species? Do you find this justified and reasonable?

Good luck paying off your debts.

Anonymous said...

One could say that Abraham "Jewed God down" on the number of righteous people you need in a city to keep it from getting wiped out.

Anonymous said...

Nature and the creator are cruel beyond imagining. Venomous pests such as stonefish(a venomous fish whise sting causes its victims to scream and writhe in agony), centipedes, widow spiders, jellyfish, vipers, cobras, mambas, and parasites such as ticks, fleas, lice, tapeworms, screw worm flies, candiru fish, blowflies, mosquitoes, etc cause misery and death to their victims. Nature has made 95 percent of humans meat eaters and 90 percent of the animal kingdom meat eaters, so the entire world is a slaughterhouse of violence, killing, gore.
Then there are hurricanes, tsunamis, intense cold, intense heat, overpopulation, mass starvation, and vile, disgusting, gross, repulsive scum such as execrement, earwigs, many spiders, many Reptiles and especially snakes, cockroaches, ticks, worms, snails, slugs, leeches, mold, mildew. What was the creator thinking? Maybe he wasnt thinking at all. What kind of sick demon creates these things? The creator is a sick minded idiot. Mentally degenerate and morally degenerate.
Worst of all and most cruel of all are the myriad numbers of diseases Nature made to torture and kill both man and east. Monstrous cruelties such as stroke, aneurysm, heart disease, ebola, rabies, malaria, elephantiasis, dengue fever, Aids, tooth decay, gout, Alzheimers, bubonic plague, syphilis, kidney stone, chagas disease, cancer, and harlequin ichthyosis are all CRIMES which Nature inflicts on its creatures. The creator of these horrors is a monster, criminal, lowlife, degenerate, cretin, idiot worse than Hitler and lower than sewer bacteria. The world is a Satanic hellhole and horror movie ruled by the Devil and not a loving God.

Unknown said...

That's a really good point. Ok so let's say we are ruled from Satan. Then that means we are living in hell and the idea would be to stand above all that which is evil to see what is good & kind. Our purpose in life is to be in the place of love where god exists which is behond the external physical but perhaps within. The idea to connect with it and use it in everyday life. We daren't forget the good things on earth perhaps that's where we need to focus. So now we see the difference clearer what is evil (hate, pain is evil) and what is good. (Love is good)

I don't know about you guys. But what I do know is that when the going gets tough, I surrender, pray for help to the universe, god or what ever you like to call it. Then some amazing stuff happens in my life. Stuff that I would concider a miricle at times. At that point of surrendering I must be open to anything which is given to me, take the path which is offered, have no desires or ideals just accept what comes and inevitably it comes and it is always exceptional and wonderful.
If you have never surrendered every bit of your egistance then and only then I can understand you may not of experienced these powers in your life.
I do believe there is so much more power behond our comprehension. That we are not the highest form in egistance and something bigger way way behond our tiny imaginations or brains could ever comprehend.

Sheba said...

Two points- Why pick on Christianity- as religions go, today it is a peaceable religion preaching love, compassion, tolerance, etc. and is in fact, too good for its own good- think how that butchering, misogynist thing called Islam and its followers are running rampant in all the christian countries bringing rape and mayhem in its wake, and even the despicable sharia law!! So,if you don't have the guts to nail Islam,at least don't pick on Christianity just because it won't behead you if you do!

Second point- it is so depressing to read people like (a) 'Anonymous' who goes on and on for miles, stating all the obvious facts that can be seen even by a child, yet fails to point out exactly why he calls you 'arrogant'- what a pompous arse who sits on the fence calling himself an atheist, yet wants you to mollycoddle the religious and justify their stupidities and lies.
and (b) Jay from pro-Design who's again pompously stating the obvious, like 'we are not the highest form of egistance', etc. as if he is the first one to have opened his eyes to see that. But what makes him so run-of-the-mill righteous is the belief that just because when the going got tough for him and he 'surrendered' (like we have a choice!), miraculous, wonderful and exceptional stuff happened for him.
Well, as I said, run-of-the-mill selfish prick, because the horrendous stuff happening to people and animals and the 'universe' all around him matters not a bit, as long as he is lucky to be receiving 'amazing stuff' from his god, the self-same 'god' that has been daily making life hell for trillions since the dawn of time!

Snarky said...

Unfortunately Abraham couldn't even find a single decent person other than Lot. So Gods 'aim' wasn't so important after all :-)

Snarky said...

I'm not an atheist, but just out of curiosity, where would your feelings find themselves, and how would your comment differ, if any, if you surrendered one day, and instead of something great happening, even MORE and meaner hell came crashing down on you? The reason I ask is because that is what sometimes happens even though the sufferer surrenders and humbles himself.