When debating the origins of the Bible with most Christians, you’ll often be confronted with arguments to the effect that the Bible was written – or, rather, directly inspired – by God. The usual and justified response, then, is to point out the circular logic in the claim: The Bible is the word of God because it claims to be the word of God, and one could just as easily scrawl “All first-born daughters, upon turning fourteen, must be tied in the woods to be violated by bears; this is the word of God” and have just as much a chance at demonstrating the authenticity of either document. But it makes even less sense than that.
In the same or similar debates, you’ll likely encounter the “you can’t understand God because God’s mind is incomprehensible” variety of argument. That is, if you attempt to attribute any kind of characteristic like “love”, “hatred”, “pettiness”, “insanity”, et cetera to God, you’ll be informed that it’s a human-specific characteristic, and, thus, you can’t apply it to God, who is “incomprehensible” and operates beyond the understanding of man’s logic. But if religion was truly inspired or written by God, then why does God seem to have so many human-specific needs? Religion seems to exclusively fulfill the needs of humans, and none of the needs of an omnipotent being.
Humans need religion to be comforted by the notion that the people they don’t like will face some kind of unavoidable justice for their behavior. You can’t really do anything about it yourself, but that belief – that desire for vicarious vengeance – can help get you from day to day. Why would God – a supposedly omnipotent being – need this? Why would God have such a lowly human desire for vengeance and punishment? And why would he have such a complicated system for delivering it? But even with all of that aside, given the limitless ways he’d have of dealing with potentially pesky human souls, why limit himself to a binary, two-location (or a few more rather close to the others, depending on your beliefs) sorting system?
Now, I anticipate an argument against this along the lines of “God gives mankind what we want because he wants us to be happy.” But I guess this would imply that God is somehow man’s servant, or at least that the purpose and function of God is to fulfill mankind’s wishes by fashioning a reality for us that apparently caters to all our needs and inevitably fulfills all our wishes and desires if we’re good boys and girls and follow instructions. But that’s just silly. And doesn’t this assumption about God’s wishes also attribute to him characteristics that are apparently human-specific?
Further, what would God necessarily have to gain from all the hygiene-specific guidelines laid out in the Old Testament? Does it matter to him whether we live or… er… afterlive? Since he presumably exists in all places at once, does it really matter to him whether we die of some food-borne illness at age 25 or a heart attack at age 77?
Then, of course, is the whole ability to view hell from heaven. What need could God possibly have for that? Can’t he see everything anyway? Again, this is something that exclusively benefits – for certain rather psychotic definitions of ‘benefits’ – man.
I could go on for a while about this, and I’ll likely have greater elaboration in a future post with excerpts from the Bible and such, but the reward/punishment structure all seems to point to “faithful humans get everything they could possibly want; God gets nothing God couldn’t just effortlessly fashion for himself, but for whatever reason grants all the wishes of faithful humans based on some arcane, oversimplified system that is obviously the product of a mind no more complex than any human and designed specifically by the faithful to ensure that only they receive the reward they feel is coming to people in the afterlife, and that everyone else gets punished”.
Ultimately, Christians can’t have it both ways: If God cannot be attributed human characteristics, then he has no human-like needs and the whole system makes no sense, especially eternal damnation. But if God can be attributed human characteristics, then he’s really not much of a God.