God’s morality can be evaluated in two ways that I see: either one can assume that God exists and judge God according to the Book one accepts and what they believe It created, else God can be assumed to be nothing more than the work of fiction whose role changes depending on which story one accepts as cannon. This has nothing to do with existence of God, unless one refuses to let go of the “moral” or “loving” dimension of their definition of God.
One may refuse to let go of these dimensions. After all, Anselm’s and Platinga’s Ontological Arguments for the existence of God necessitate that God is maximal; that God is the greatest conceivable being. Apologists often assume that maximal or great morality necessarily gets included in this definition. However if we remove God from the theistic worldview, morality, justice and lovingness are all subjective qualities. The same is not true of knowledge or power. God cannot maximally meet the criteria of morality, justice and lovingness because they are subjective criteria and so maximally meeting them is a meaningless assertion. Apologists want to get around this by asserting that God defines morality, but that is circular (and we all know it).
That’s issue #1: it’s circular but apologists stick unrelentingly to the assertion.
Issue #2 is that we have some concept of what we mean by morality, justice and lovingness. These may be woolly concepts, but these and the nature of a healthy relationship are not ideas completely devoid of direction. We know which way to point even if we cannot absolutely define each of these things. The reason this is an issue is that God is stated to be moral, just and loving and Its actions are also described and the actions completely undermine even the vaguest concept of morality, justice and lovingness.
Faced with this conflict–morality, justice and lovingness being necessary defining part of God, but it’s actions clearly not conforming to such descriptions–the intellectually honest thing to do is cut out one of the horns completely: reject either the moral, just and loving nature of God or the inerrancy of the Book in question. But apologists can’t do this; either step ruins the foundations of their apologetics.
Across the world we are aware of certain places that have disproportionate punishments for crimes. 10 countries have the death penalty for being gay and I could find 8 countries that have the death penalty for apostasy. These facts tend to outrage us, especially as they are actually utilised. These things outrage us even though they are common knowledge and anyone found guilty of these actions knew well in advance what the state would do. It outrages us because the punishment is disproportionate to the “crime” (and in these cases, they shouldn’t even be crimes). There are other examples of flogging and bodily harm for comparatively minor transgressions.
God drowned everyone in Genesis and burned everyone in Sodom and Gomorrah (and presumably then sent them to Hell, but that is just my assumption). Stuart Gray, a blogger I have recently been in dialogue with, believes that because God warned people that their sin was to lead to their death that the punishment is immediately justified. But we do not accept that for laws banning homosexuality or apostasy. We bend and even break the definition of the word “justice” to sustain that description of God.
It can be, and I have heard it argued that God’s justice cannot be compared to our justice. But our justice is the definition of justice. If God is running from some other system we should not be so foolish as to call it justice or morality, because we have some vague idea of what justice and morality look like and God demonstrably fails at that. God runs another system, as regular readers may know that I have tried to put into Earthly words what God does: narcissistic sociopathy.
In the Bible one might refer to the Fall and the crucifixion to circumvent the criticisms here. (I find many people think merely replying counts as a rebuttal and so don’t pay attention to actually being relevant.) Firstly, you must be a creationist to accept the Fall; without Creationism there was no Adam and Eve to fall. But the Fall, like the killing of the first born sons in Exodus, makes the assumption that guilt and punishment can be passed down the bloodline. This is another idea we find unjust in all our dealings, so if God utilises this mechanism we must acknowledge that “justice” is an inapt word to describe it. It looks more that thuggery and petty tribalism. The crucifixion is more morally abhorrent still. Vicarious redemption is the idea that by punishing one person we can assume that the debts of other people have been paid. I have paid another person’s parking fine before, but I have never been allowed to become a defendant on behalf of another person because it is unjust to intentionally sentence the wrong person. I would like to share a comment (that never got a reply) that I shared with Caroline earlier in the week (it originally mirrored her use of language so has been adapted for more general use):
My dog is free to sit or not sit when I give the command. It sits if it respects me, and sincere respect cannot be coerced. I would be remiss if I didn’t take a colt .45 and blow out the brains of a disrespectful dog. But I love dogs, so I killed my dog–who would always show respect and sit on command–yesterday to allow me to forgive other dogs that lick my face (but only those dogs), regardless of whether they show respect. But I can only forgive them if they thank me for killing my dog for them.
I don’t want that salvation. I don’t want the blood of an innocent person to be the price of my salvation. We know it isn’t just.
But we cannot argue that against religious apologists because they use God’s asserted authority to demand the corruption of the meaning of the words morality, justice and love so completely shelter God from criticism. Some apologists scorn critics for even positing we might have the right to judge how well God meets Its own self-image. And that’s issue #3.
People arguing for their religion are steeped in a culture of dismissing critics and dissenters. Critics are told they don’t understand, and no one understands, so they just have to be comfortable with the happy explanation. Even though the happy explanation comes from people who admit they don’t understand. Critics are told they are inferior to God and that their judgements are the feeble and mutable opinions of an ant. Justice should transcend hierarchy, which is why we can impeach politicians and spark investigations into police officers and sergeants.
God’s actions contradict Its own (published) self-image, so the apologists engage in sophistry and smear campaigns to make the obvious falsehood an inherited wisdom. And as they’ve only just stopped killing dissenters (and not entirely) they’ve afforded themselves a considerable head start.