"I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live"
Choice; that's the cornerstone of the Christian faith. Adam and his rib-woman were banished from Eden because they chose to disobey the Christian god over some fresh produce. That act constitutes the Original Sin and all their descendants henceforth would carry its taint. We are all born with that taint within us and it is the reason why all of us would be lovingly and eternally tortured by the All-Merciful, All-Loving biblical godhead even if we somehow led completely blameless lives - unless we choose to accept the sacrifice of Jesus of Nazareth to atone for the sin of a crime we did not even commit.
The above is the central tenet of Christianity, more or less, and I trust that any reasonably moral and sane person should be able to spot at least two unambiguously immoral and evil principles in it. Firstly, descendants are culpable for the wrongdoings of their ancestors and could be tormented for eternity for it. Secondly, it is apparently okay to scapegoat; to make someone else suffer for our sins; to condone the crucifixion of a supposedly innocent man in order to escape never-ending pain and gain everlasting bliss.
There's a more tenuous third thing concerning the illusion of choice and free will in the whole fabric of the Christian reality, and it is the subject I aim to discuss here to the best of my ability and knowledge. I shall be using the King James' Bible when I quote any relevant verses because I like the 'thees' and 'thous'.
It would be real helpful if you have seen DreamWorks' The Prince of Egypt, by the way.
The Story of the Pharaoh's Heart.
"And the LORD said unto Moses, When thou goest to return into Egypt, see that thou do all those wonders before Pharaoh, which I have put in thine hand: but I will harden his heart, that he shall not let the people go."
The Mosaic mythos is perhaps one of the most well known tales in the world. Moses is the Hebrew Boy Who Lived; abandoned by his mother to the mercy of the Nile at the age of 3 months on a little bulrush ark, he was rescued by the Pharaoh's daughter and was raised by her as one of her own.
To flash it forward, Moses eventually became God's instrument and prophet in the LORD's "persuasion" of the Pharaoh to let the His chosen people - the Israelites - leave Egypt. The quotation marks are because the whole affair looks like a pathetic sock puppet theatre put up by God who had control over both the good and bad guys for the express purpose of showing how powerful He really is. On one hand, He had Moses throwing the 10 Plagues at Egypt to get Pharaoh to give in to His demands - while His other hand was pulling the strings of the Pharaoh's heart and making the hapless monarch act like a ridiculously stubborn nincompoop who refused to cooperate even after God repeatedly proved that He could seriously mess his shit up.
And if that's not enough, God also admitted to having created the Pharaoh just so the man could defy Him - it was clearly said by God himself in Exodus 9:13-16 and referenced in Romans,
"For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy. For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth."
So, did the Pharaoh really possess free will when his actions were already predestined by God at the point of his creation?
Even before Moses first went before the Pharaoh on His order, God already said that he will "harden" the Pharaoh's heart (Exodus 4:21). It's all part of the Plan, see - God was out for blood from the very start. Even if Pharaoh turned out to be a pretty reasonable fellow and would totally be okay with letting the Jews go, God would still change Pharaoh's mind just so He would have an excuse to unleash His Judgment on him and Egypt.
I mean, the guy was ready to relent on his own by Plague #6 (boils!) but "the LORD hardened the heart of Pharaoh" (Exodus 9:12) so Moses' people would have to stick around a bit longer for more of God's magic skillz.
What made me realise that God is a complete monster was right after Plague #8 (locusts!) when Pharaoh - reduced to a begging, apologetic wreck - besought Moses to entreat the LORD on his behalf to lift the curse. At this point, it was understood that Pharaoh was prepared to release God's people. "But the LORD hardened Pharaoh's heart, so that he would not let the children of Israel go" (Exodus 10:20). Immediately in the very next verse, God commanded Moses to bring forth the 9th Plague (darkness!). This too had the effect of softening Pharaoh up and the bloke was again all ears to Moses' appellations. "But the LORD hardened Pharaoh's heart, and he was not willing to let them go" (Exodus 10:27).
And finally, God performed His killing blow, the 10th and final piece: the Plague on the Firstborn. At the stroke of midnight, all the firstborn of Egypt were struck down by God's terrible curse. Many of those who were murdered by God were undoubtedly children; kids too innocent to be responsible for the Hebrews' plight and too young to know which deity is the right one to worship. And since they did not die in a covenant with God, they would all go to Hell to be tormented till the end time.
This needn't have happened if God hadn't fucking meddled with the Pharaoh's free will. He could have magicked the Hebrews out of Egypt instantly. He could have mind-tricked the Pharaoh into release His people since He's obviously not above messing about with people's heads. But no, He's a bloodthirsty metaphysical bogeyman and He wanted death and damnation. Quite clearly, it is in His nature to be wicked.
The Question of Evil.
This is the sort of being that all Christians worship - a sadomasochistic cosmic psychopath who treats human beings like playthings and feels that He's justified in hurting us if it serves to glorify His name. A Christian friend gave me a copy of the Holy Bible back when I was in high school. I browsed through it then, but none too seriously. My friend made me promise that I would not deface the volume, tear pages out, or use it to prop a chair up or something. I kept that promise till this day.
When I was in India, I became a rather receptive agnostic, and even attended a good number of church services (more than my Prebysterian girlfriend, and that's saying something). Then I took to studying the Bible in earnest, with every intention of converting to Christianity eventually - and what I read froze my blood. I approached the so-called Good Book asking myself one simple question: What does it mean to believe in the God of the Bible? While the rest of the scriptures were equally problematic (to understate it), it was the Book of Exodus and what I've personally dubbed as the Story of the Pharaoh's Heart which left the strongest impression in my mind and the worst taste in my mouth.
Not ruling out that there might be a perfectly rational explanation for it, I asked a Christian colleague regarding God's actions in Exodus. He simply told me that "they were to glorify God's powers." That frightened me something fierce. In that singular moment, I realise with a chill that he and every other Christian in this world truly and fully condone everything that God did to the Pharaoh and the people of Egypt, young and old, innocent and guilty alike. Are they blissfully unaware of the ethical ramifications of what they have chosen to believe in?
Oh, I wouldn't say that Christians possess a moral compass so fractured that they are no longer capable of objectively seeing the difference between good and evil. And I certainly wouldn't say that their conscience is so corrupted that they are unable feel even the slightest twinge of remorse for getting in bed with an omnipotent, petty and sick tyrant who are still torturing the innocent children of Egypt to this day and will continue to do so forever more.
These are things I wouldn't say.
The Illusory Nature of Christian Free Will.
Christians will tell you that you have a choice according to their worldview, and if you choose to defy Him, it's your own damn fault and the subsequent penalty He imposes on you is completely just and justified. Yes, all you need to do is accept the salvation of a cruel and jealous deity through the gory sacrifice of his meek and mild only begotten son, and the only evidence for the veracity of this claim is a patrocentric, misogynistic, xenophobic, homophobic and contradictory collection of Bronze Age literature written by superstitious shepherds with sequels penned by four disciples of a Rabbi two thousand years ago in Pontius Pilate's Judea. No reputable historian would endorse the historicity of the Exodus story. No sane geologist or biologist would defend the inerrancy of the tale of Noah's Ark and the Flood.
And the prescribed punishment for choosing not to believe what this unproven, unvefiable and morally reprehensible bunch of scriptures say about some guy named Jesus is? Everlasting and unrelenting torture in Hell and fire. Does this, in any way, sound even remotely fair or just to you?
What's the fucking use of free will if these are the only two choices we are allowed to make? If we are even allowed to make them in the first place, that is.
There's more, of course. There's always more shit in the Bible if you look hard enough.
"According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will..."
Those verses clearly expressed Paul's belief that we are all predestined to either believe or disbelieve from the beginning by the omniscient, All-Encompassing Christian God "according to the good pleasure of his will." Concurring with the theme that salvation or damnation is predetermined and not through our choices is this bit from the Second Epistle to Timothy,
"Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner: but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God; who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began..."
2 Timothy 1:8-9
For another instance of God just plain screwing around with your free will like he did with the Pharaoh's, Judas' and Satan's, chapter 2, verse 11 of the Second Epistle to the Thessalonians says, "And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie." What this means is that God will deceive you to get you past the point of redemption, presumably because He finds the whole thing fucking hilarious.
"This is what I think of your free will, bitches MUAHAHAHA!" - God.
Christians always talk about God having the whole shebang figured out. God has a Plan for all of us. God decides our Fate. We are all created to fulfill a Purpose which God has created us for. These are hokums which get thrown around by the churchgoing species a lot. Do all these catchphrases smell like free will to you?
My point is, if God is the architect of events past, present and future; aren't we just going through the motions? Aren't we just like the Pharaoh?
The Responsibility of Belief.
Did I write this entire post to provoke Christians? Yes. Did I aim to antagonise Christians? No.
What I wish to provoke is a sense of reality. I hope to confront the relevant parties with the implications of their faith. I want them to take their heads out of their cloud of joyous adulation and jerk emotions out of their driver seats - if only for a minute - to play the devil's advocate; to scrutinise everything which constitutes their belief system with the cold, unbiased blade of intellect and the effective blunt edge of common sense.
Is it possible that the Bible is neither historically accurate nor divinely inspired after all? Is it possible that the God of the Bible is evil? Think for a second: Can it be that the Bible is simply a test laid down by a REAL Creator who is truly moral and rational as an acid test to separate those who are honestly capable of distinguishing between good and wickedness through the perspicacity of their conscience from those who just follow dogma and doggerels blindly and unquestioningly? Not that I believe in such a thing but it is an interesting thought.
All I want everyone to do is decide what is right and wrong for themselves, and not surrender that responsibility to some old book which demands that you to trust in its every judgment and to follow its every word to the letter.
Oh, I'm such a wide-eyed idealist, I know.
P.S. I apologise if anyone took offence with anything I've written here, but this is my mind and I'm at liberty to speak it - the same way that everyone has the freedom to ignore it. What I'm sharing here is a personal story of how I, a pilgrim in search of God, found the clarity of atheism between the pages of the Bible.
Has a heart but does not think with it,
k0k s3n w4i