stick figure salvation

salvation in stick figures!

A commenter on my post about Sexism in the Bible slipped this into her comment:

God is good and just. It’s not what nonbeliever [sic] consider just. Their just [sic] is more to satisfy themselves. Really think about it, it is.

I hate to start out with an “Am not!” “Are too!” routine, but I just can’t help myself. I would like to hear examples about how secular justice is selfish. Most of the accusations from Christians state that atheists don’t believe in God because we’re sin addicts and can’t handle being accountable for our actions. Not only is this insulting and ignorant, but also delightfully ironic!

Selfishness and Consequences

I propose that God’s “justice” is extremely selfish and perfectly illustrates the desire to not be accountable for one’s actions. Not only that, but hey, it’s  ridiculous. How “just” and “good” is it that someone is able to wreak any amount of pain, harm, havoc, or evil upon the earth and their fellow humans, apologize for it and feel regret, and then instantly be free of any consequences for that action? It may be nice, but it’s not justice.

Consequences are a necessity for responsible individuals and a healthy society. Even when someone is repentant for what they’ve done, they should not be free from taking personal responsibility for their actions. Let’s say you have children (I know the commenter does). If they skip school, steal something from a store, or break a traffic law, but then apologize and feel terribly for what they’ve done, is that enough to satisfy the teachers, the store, and the police officer? Or do you think that they will benefit and learn from the consequences of those actions if they are allowed to experience them? Doesn’t that build character and help us understand how our choices and actions affect our lives and our loved ones? I say they do. I say consequences are an integral part of justice. This is why we have secular laws to enact justice as best we can.

I don’t think I can communicate this clearly enough, so I’m going to pass it along to two guys who can explain it further:

God vs. the Real World

Matt Dillahunty is more rad than footie pajamas and Han Solo combined. I hope you all enjoy his articulate (as always!) explanation of what justice is for God versus what it is in the real world.

Key points: Life isn’t fair, and that’s a good thing. Since justice and rewards aren’t guaranteed in some spiritual future, we are motivated to reward what is good when we see it and work together to right the wrongs in the world here and now—together. Yahweh’s “justice” is not just at all. “It is divine edict, arbitrary, and capricious.”

I could keep going, but you should listen! I think my eardrums got a hard-on.

Jesus’ Death and Justice

LatumWay, a youtuber I very much enjoy, says this about the Christian claim that Jesus was the fulfillment of God’s justice for sin:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qmw1HYKfJ18

Key points: Dying for someone’s sins is not just. You cannot take on someone’s moral responsibility. You can take their punishment, but not their culpability. The “good news” is a protection racket (best. ever.)

So, folks, what do you think?

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34 thoughts on “God’s Justice is Crap”

Mel · December 28, 2010 at 6:11 pm

Hello Godless Girl,

I only read part of this because it came instantly clear your interpretation to my snippet of a comment is grotesquely distorted from what I meant or said. I’ll have to run here in a few, but maybe later I’ll come back to finish reading your post.

I want to be clear here. I do not think Atheists are sin addicts and that’s why they chose to be Atheists. Contrary to it, I believe that most Atheists have a higher moral standard then many Christians. I wouldn’t doubt that many Christians think so. I also don’t know how secular justice was brought up from my comment. There is a place for secular justice.

I’m not great at explaining myself, nor do I have a lot of time right now, but clearly we can agree to disagree. I stand by my comment and know it to be true. You obviously never knew God. I guess you’ll agree with that. 😉 But just because you don’t like something that doesn’t make it not exist. Sorry.

    Godless Girl · December 28, 2010 at 7:07 pm

    I only read part of this because it came instantly clear your interpretation to my snippet of a comment is grotesquely distorted from what I meant or said.

    Feel free to clarify why what we think is just is only to “satisfy ourselves.”

    There wasn’t much to go on, but I used your statement as a springboard. I wasn’t replying to you personally.

      Mel · December 28, 2010 at 8:37 pm

      I must say, when I made that little comment I wasn’t expecting it to be examined so. It just kinda came out. I don’t know if I personally can find the right words to explain myself.

      Most Atheist don’t see God as Just. It’s completely different than our standard. And I believe he makes the standard…

      You know, I just deleted a lot because I am not eloquent enough in my writings to truly get across where I’m coming from. I’m not going to try to explain it because I’m not going to get it out right. I’m sorry I can’t find the right way of explaining myself on this one.

      Can I ask you? How much of human actions are contrived, conscience or subconscience out of selfishness? Even a good deed which is considered selfless; is there a possibility it be done for your pleasure. It makes you feel good to make someone else feel good; even if you appear to have sacrificed by doing it? Can we as humans ever be selfless, hence we’re always going to be selfish? I’m not asking from a scriptural standpoint, either. Honestly, I don’t know of one if I wanted to. I just truly ask your, or anyone’s opinion on this.

        greengeekgirl · December 28, 2010 at 9:27 pm

        I would have to surmise that most human actions are derived of selfishness in some way, if not all. Whether or not you’re doing an action to make yourself feel good, to make yourself feel less bad (as in, alleviating a guilty conscience), doing something to better your personal situation (financial, social, spiritual, et cetera), or doing something to protect yourself or your family, I think most of what we do, we do for ourselves primarily. Every “sacrifice” we make brings us (or, more rarely, someone else or society as a whole) a greater gain, or we wouldn’t make the sacrifice.

        I think people get too hung up on altruism vs. selfishness, though. Most human beings have limits to selfishness; unless you have a psychological disorder, you’re equipped with a conscience that, much of the time, keeps you from harming people or doing really bad things. (Some function better than others.. heh.)

        greengeekgirl · December 28, 2010 at 9:32 pm

        Even following Christian morality is selfish.. in fact, it’s even more selfish than nonbeliever morality, since you follow the ideas for an ultimate goal and not to be a good person for the sake of being a good person. If you’re a believer, you want to be good so that you get into heaven. If you’re a non-theist, you do it because you think it’s the right thing to do.

        Godless Girl · December 29, 2010 at 8:53 am

        I agree with greengeekgirl’s point about most human actions come out of some kind of selfish motive. We are an animal that needs to survive, and our brains are wired a certain way. This isn’t a bad thing in its most basic sense, because we’ve also developed compassion and the ability to interpret how someone else is feeling and what our actions mean to others around us. We are much more complex than I could possibly know (I’m no scientist!).

          Pinky · December 29, 2010 at 8:36 pm

          Richard Dawkins has studied this extensively. You can read “The Selfish Gene” which explains it in technical terms. 😀

Mel · December 28, 2010 at 6:26 pm

Ok, I just had a chance to read the rest, but don’t have time to watch your videos…

Where in the world do you get this stuff about Christians not believing in “laws”!?! What kind of church did you go to when you were a Christian!?! I see why you’re an Atheist now, Ha!

Of course I believe my children, or myself for that matter, should reap what they/I sow. You break a law; you pay the legal price. Just because you ask God to forgive you, and more importantly turn away from doing it again, doesn’t mean you get away with it in the world. You get that from the verses in your little pic up there?

Ok, now I really have to go…

Have yourself a wonderful evening

    Godless Girl · December 28, 2010 at 7:09 pm

    Where in the world do you get this stuff about Christians not believing in “laws”!?! What kind of church did you go to when you were a Christian!?! I see why you’re an Atheist now, Ha!

    I don’t recall ever saying that, actually. And I don’t think your false assumptions of my own personal background are necessary.

    Anyway, the topic is about God’s justice. What do you think about the statements I said specifically? Like,

    How “just” and “good” is it that someone is able to wreak any amount of pain, harm, havoc, or evil upon the earth and their fellow humans, apologize for it and feel regret, and then instantly be free of any consequences for that action?

    This is the basic teaching of salvation from sin. Your thoughts on why this is just?

      Mel · December 28, 2010 at 7:58 pm

      I mentioned your background because you mentioned before how you were a Christian for 20 years. I’m curious to know what kind of Christian, because I’m not knowing where you get your stuff from. First off, the scriptures you reference in your picture above do not state this. The greyed box

      “how “just” and “good” is it… …and then instantly be free of any consequences for that action?

      Where do you get this!?! This is not the basic teaching of salvation from sin. The best way for me to explain it is if my daughter stills a candy from the store, (she’s still young) I will be upset, I’ll take her to the cashier and make her tell them she stole it from them and have her return it (just how I’d handle it), then I’d take her home and punish her because of her actions. I want her to know that this is wrong. I’d forgive her even before she asks me to, but she will still have her punishment for her actions. Consequences are not avoided because one asks for God’s forgiveness. Please tell me where you get this. The verses above do not say it.

        Godless Girl · December 29, 2010 at 10:06 am

        Well, if we’re talking Scriptures: according to the Bible, there is no “kind” of Christian” (Romans 10:9, Galatians 3:28, 1 Corinthians 12: 12-14). As a follower of Jesus, I came to believe all denominations were un-biblical and man-made (John 17:11).

        Where do you get this!?! This is not the basic teaching of salvation from sin. … Consequences are not avoided because one asks for God’s forgiveness.

        I get it from the bible and from, you know, church. I’ll go with a popular way of teaching on salvation:
        Romans 6:23; Acts 16:29-31 ; Romans 10:9

        You can do wrong, any wrong, any amount of wrong. But if you believe in the salvation from Jesus, you can be saved from your consequence, which is death (and, as popularly taught, eternal hell and separation from God). this may be nice for the person who wants to get away with all those sins, but it’s not justice.

        Perhaps I didn’t communicate my original post clearly enough. I am not saying that saved people are free from secular/civil consequences. I am saying they are saved from Hell. I was using the concept of secular justice to explain why it is better than spiritual justice.

      Pinky · December 28, 2010 at 8:06 pm

      “I see why you’re an Atheist now, Ha!” <- what's this about?

        Mel · December 28, 2010 at 8:10 pm

        I’m sorry, it came across wrong. I was making a joke because the scriptures she is referring to stating that asking God’s forgiveness wipes away worldly consequences. It’s just not so. If she was taught twisted views of the bible (because she mentioned to me directly in another post that she was Christian for 20 years) I can see why she’s an Atheist now…

        I know my joke was lame… I tried 🙂

Pinky · December 28, 2010 at 7:13 pm

@Mel.

Hmm Why would christians think that Atheist have a “higher moral standard”?

What an odd thing to say.

    Mel · December 28, 2010 at 8:04 pm

    “Many” Christians would think “most” Atheist have a high moral standard than “many” Christians.

    I say this because I’ve heard Christians talk about this on the radio, and I’ve been in conversations within my church where this was discussed.

    Just because a person is Christian doesn’t make them perfect. It’s a daily thing to commit to. We make mistakes. Do you believe Atheists are not moral? I was an Atheist and I felt I was moral. I wanted to do the right, and best thing. I had a heart that cared for people. Sometimes I felt more compassionate than Christians I know.

    Don’t get me wrong I’m not saying Christians are not morally stronger than Atheists. Some are not, though. That is all I’m saying.

      Pinky · December 29, 2010 at 9:04 pm

      As an atheist and a medical professional, I believe the morals lie within the actions of the person.

      Your rationality is what motivates you. How you rationalise the world and process things. I am motivated by my desire to “do no harm”. Your motivated by the spoils of heaven. Which motivator is more moral?

      Many in my profession would put you in hospital if you told them that you hear god, and are at times compelled to speak gibberish. In my profession we consider this psychosis.

        John · May 19, 2011 at 3:17 pm

        “I am motivated by my desire to ‘”do no harm.”‘ Your motivated by the spoils of heaven” (Pinky).

        I think you have a misunderstanding as to what truly motivates us as Christians. I’m not motivated to do good deeds because of what is stored up in Heaven. I’m motivated by my love for God, which in turn supplies my love for people. Even if Heaven wasn’t part of the picture, I would still love God, because He is good and shows/proves it to me day after day. Because of this fact, I would still love people and take every opportunity to help those in need.

The Godless · December 28, 2010 at 7:26 pm

While kind of off topic, I want to reply to Mel’s claim about people thinking something doesn’t exist because they don’t like it. This way of thinking can and should be applied equally to people that like things and believe they exist. In fact, I would say that this is the believer’s biggest problem, they like their belief so much that they no longer care if it is true.

    Annie · December 28, 2010 at 10:58 pm

    You seem to care a lot about something you don’t believe in, why is that?

      Pinky · December 29, 2010 at 9:05 pm

      Because of the atrocities that religion cause.

grneyedmonster · December 28, 2010 at 9:16 pm

Why do Christians feel the need for earthly punishments at all if they believe that sinners will be punished by god after they die? If the only things that are criminalized are acts that are sins against god, it would be unnecessary to create earthly punishments for those same crimes because god will mete out whatever punishment he deems appropriate. Criminalizing acts are that are not characterized by god as sins would be usurping divine authority, which I imagine that god would categorize as a pretty big sin. So, bottom line, if you believe in god’s “justice,” you have no need of human justice. Therefore, it follows that those Christians who insist upon human justice either do not really believe in divine justice or are just thirsting for vengeance, which is a sin as well.

Ani Sharmin · December 28, 2010 at 9:25 pm

I really like this post. God’s justice really is horrible, and it amazes me that God’s actions are called loving. I’d never seen LatumWay before, but I’m going to check out some of his videos.

Andrew Hall · December 29, 2010 at 9:20 am

Can I talk about Matt’s video for a moment? You know when I’m speaking to one of the religious I start out with the emotion that the believer is referring to (in this case the frustration with living in an injust world). After all, religion is about emotion and starting off a conversation with, “What you want doesn’t matter concerning how the world works,” may shut the other side down (not listen/not engage).
Me? I’d start off with “Is the world injust? Sure it is. I can relay a few of stories about injustice that I’ve personally seen – without doubt life can be hard.” Then I would go about the nuts and bolts of the argument.

I also try to be on the other person’s “side” as much as possible (not easy). If I have to apologize for a condescending remark then I shouldn’t have made it in the first place. The trick is to disagree without being disagreeable. That strikes me as the best way to sway a person to my point of view (especially when it’s face to face).

Please don’t get me wrong, I agree with the content of what Matt is saying. It’s the style. Atheists, in general, should think about the difference between “preaching to the choir” and talking to the individual who is religious.

Peter B. · December 31, 2010 at 10:39 pm

Once I wanted a bike really badly. As we were poor and couldn’t afford a bike, I prayed to god for one. Every day for weeks and weeks I prayed and prayed for a bike, without my prayers being answered. Eventually I learned that god didn’t work that way … so I stole a bike and prayed for his forgiveness instead.

God’s justice!! If you believe in god, you can have whatever ever you want with a clear conscience – rape, murder, theft – as long as you thank him for giving it to you.

Thank you GG for an excellent post.

Jacob · January 1, 2011 at 9:02 am

Wow…Dare I step onto the battlefield? Yikes. Look, I’m not siding with anyone here. I’m just going to contribute what I can for the benefit of any further posting. Please note, I’m not assuming anyone doesn’t know any of this. I’m just trying to give a proper representation of how the Bible’s writers use these ideas.

SELISHNESS. Many Christians and atheists think of selfishness perhaps in the wrong context. It’s not selfishness as opposed to altruism that the Gospel accounts for. It’s a love of self over a love of God or at times, a self-effort that denies a fear of God or a belief in God. Loving others is a very important part of Jesus’ teaching but the cross was meant to interject into humanity’s attitude of self over God. As an example, Satan was cast down for trying to make himself equal to God not for being “selfish” instead of altruistic.

CONSEQUENCES. I think a good study of the Bible would reveal that we are not freed from the immediate consequences of our sin, but rather the spiritual consequences. A repentant drinker may still have to face liver disease, jail time, DUI charges, broken relationships, etc. Sexually promiscuous people who repent don’t escape STD’s, surprise babies, etc. All people, repentant or not, die a physical death. I think God allows plenty of room for us to grow by our mistakes as you scratched on, GG.

REPENTANCE. Repentance in biblical terms means “to turn away from or change directions”. It’s not an apology and a shoulderful of regret. It’s a realization of error and a determination to avoid said behavior in the future. This means you can’t just keep doing it as long as you feel bad about it. It also means that it’s not okay to do something knowing you’ll feel bad about it. In the intended Biblical context, it means you change your motivations from gratifying sin to pleasing God.

THE GOSPEL. The idea behind the gospel is that through repentance and a belief in Jesus’ work on the cross, you don’t just get a new “motives” package. The idea is that you are submerged into Jesus’ death on the cross and his resurrection whereby your sinful nature is put to death and you are actually created as a new spiritual life. This is what is termed being “born again” by Jesus. You aren’t given a VIP card into heaven. You get into heaven based on the fact that your life is now linked with that of THE VIP, Jesus himself. The goal of a Christian’s life should not be getting into heaven(though that is a “perk” of it). The “goal” of a Christian’s life is to live out there new spiritual being such that Jesus expresses himself through their life.

I hope some of this might be useful even if it doesn’t satisfy any of the concerns posted and even if its not news to most of you. Happy 2011, by the way, y’all!

Jacob · January 2, 2011 at 2:45 am

Question: Open to anyone. According to Matt Dilahunty,”Since justice and rewards aren’t guaranteed in some spiritual future, we are motivated to reward what is good when we see it and work together to right the wrongs in the world here and now—together.”

I’m curious as to whether you think “motivated” ever turns into action in most cases; In other words, do you truly find yourself following your motivations towards justice or passions against injustice moving you towards tangible practice? I’d be curious to hear examples. Additionally, do you feel that your motivations towards justice more often drive you to rewarding/applauding the justice of others or to seeking justice in your own life? From my own experience, I can say I usually cry Give Us Justice! when I feel I’m being treated injustly and I more often cry Give Us Mercy! when I feel I’ve been rightly accused, caught red handed… How about some of y’all? Expand on how justice actually motivates y’all. 🙂

I think unfortunately Matt might have been more realistic and less idealistic in saying “we SHOULD BE motivated to reward…” instead of “we ARE motivated to reward…”

    Godless Girl · January 3, 2011 at 12:36 pm

    Hmmm… tangible examples of seeking justice? Well, I’m not involved directly in the law or anything obvious like that. I do try to find ways to support organizations and causes that do practical work for human rights and such around the world. Two of my favorites have been International Justice Mission and Amnesty International.

    That, and I try to vote in sch a way that the weak are taken care of and the law defends the individual.

Roofwoofer · January 3, 2011 at 11:06 am

A lot of misunderstanding about Christian beliefs comes from a misunderstanding of the central point of the Christian faith. So when things are discussed without first clarifying the focus, it can lead to confusion.

Christians believe that God created people to have someone to love and be in relationship with. To him, when we get closer to him it’s a win. When we go in the opposite direction, it’s a loss. The point LatumWay makes in his video is correct: You can bear a punishment for someone else, but you can’t erase that person’s culpability. Christians talk about sin, punishment, etc. but really, being cut off from the source of life and goodness is its own punishment. We all have a price to pay for our wrong actions. But to a Christian, those wrong actions have a here-and-now meaning plus a spiritual meaning: it’s a step along the road of separating myself from God who loves me. I take my lumps here (apologize, make restitution, accept legal consequences, etc.) but I also need to accept what God has offered through Jesus: a way to be reconciled in my relationship with God.

Perhaps an illustration can help. God made people to love and care for, but they joined in an uprising against him and cut themselves off from the relationship. Instead of cutting the rebels off in a starvation siege, God keeps sending supplies and care packages because he’s made everything we need to live and he still loves us, but he knows our real happiness will lie in re-entering the relationship with him. But he knows we aren’t capable of crossing back across the battle zone to rejoin him, and he knows our lives are much worse then he’d originally intended. So, for our benefit and to offer a way to restore the relationship, he sent his son across the battle lines to take out the mines and build a bridge. Salvation = we decide to cross the bridge and take our place in the relationship again.

Atheists won’t believe in God, so they won’t care about the restoration of a relationship with him. But the only way Christians are getting off scot free is that we know that what we deserved — being cut off from the source of love, life, and everything beautiful — is something we’re being spared if we just accept the offer.

Don’t worry, if I steal a bike, I know I should take the rap. But if I have enough familiarity with God to know the sweetness of being close to him, I’ll be likely to care about fixing that problem most.

Aleks S. · January 7, 2011 at 10:07 pm

Godless Girl,

Great post! One of the reasons I had to leave Christianity was this repeated appeal to God’s justice. I couldn’t, and I still can’t conceive of any way in which one person being punished for the crimes of another can be considered just. The concept of “you do the crime, you do the time” is intrinsic to any conception of justice I can form. The idea that it is somehow just for Jesus (who did not do the crime) accepting the punishment for me (who, ostensibly did do the crime) just doesn’t jive with “justice.” Mercy? Maybe. Love? Maybe. But justice? Of course not.

Unfortunately for Christians though, once you take the “God is just” trump out, the whole “Jesus needed to be sacrificed for our sins” house of cards comes tumbling down. Without an appeal to the neccessity for someone, anyone, to be punished because I said “raca” to some guy, then there’s no need for Jesus, for a substitutional sacrifice, or any of the rigamarole.

When, invariably, Christians retreat to the soundbyte that “God’s standard is different from man’s” it only moves the dilemma one step farther. If God’s standard of “justice” is so indecipherable to man as to be completely incompatible with human standards of justice, then how can we make any meaningful statements about God’s standard of say, “truth” or “love” or “goodness?”

That of course neglects the other questions the issue of “God’s Justice” brings up, namely: infinite punishment for finite crimes, neglect for rehabilitation, and a lack of clarity of rules and authorities, just to start. But in my mind the disconnect between substitutional sacrifice and any rational standard of justice alone is enough to throw the “God is just” canard right into the dustbin.

    John · April 12, 2011 at 5:04 pm

    Aleks S., you make a good point, but justice goes beyond “you do the crime, you do the time.” Dictionary.com defines justice as “the administering of deserved punishment or reward” (Merriam-Webster says the same thing, but it’s more wordy). Jesus paid the “deserved punishment.” It would have been completely unjust for God to leave the sin unpunished; however, Jesus, in His love, mercy, and grace, chose to bear the wrath of God, taking the punishment upon Himself. Justice was administered.

    Justice isn’t administered to the person, but to the crime (that’s even how America’s justice system works). Example: If I was assulted, the culprit was arrested, went to court, and was given a 5 year sentence, I could actually pay that time in prison myself, showing mercy to the person who assulted me all while justice was being administered. That’s basically what Jesus did by dying on the cross. He was completely just while being completely loving and merciful.

    In the same light, it was just for Jesus to pay the price for our sins by dying on the cross because He chose to do so. If He had chosen to not pay the price, but was forced too, then it would have been unjust.

    Concerning some of the other could-be questions you mentioned in your concluding paragraph: 1) The crimes aren’t finite. They are extremely serious, considered treason against God, and all civilizations punish treason by capitol punishment. 2) There is plenty of opportunity for rehabilitation. All people have to do is repent and submit their lives to Christ. However, just like a child who refuses to believe that there are consequences for “sticking their hand in the cookie jar” there are consequences for not listening and not changing their ways: justice. 3) There is a book of rules: The Bible, and a clear authority: God.

    I enjoyed reading all of these posts. I hope this helps clear any confusion people have about God and His justice.

jeff · April 29, 2011 at 5:34 pm

ISIAIh 41 BRING forth your IDOLS did they PREACH to you see they can’t speak they can’t DO ANYTHING all they do is cause confusion. spalms 115 and spalms 135 thier IDOLS are FALSE cant speak can’t hear cant smell and those that make them shall become like them. Jeremiah 10 they nail their IDOL down like a scarecrow it can’t move can’…t speak can’t move must be carried these are nothing but the WORK of CON men.john 10 jesus christ sais his sheep hear his voice and another voice thy will not follow and if another person tries to preach to them they WILL FLEE from him. jeremiah 5 the priests bear rule on their own authority what will you do when your judged my word is not inside them. Now here is the kicker john 5 son of man voice goes back in time mathew 16 jesus christ claims to be the son of man.‎1 cor2 mind of CHRIST preached internally and john 16 sais the spirit of truth comes in the future. Ezekiel 13 lying prophets of ISRAEL my word is not inside them saying god sais god sais god sais wrote hoping mankind would CONFIRM their WORDS. all of this is EASILY verifiable.

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