Imagine Cindy marries Roy because Roy claims to be a king. Cindy believed Roy without first assessing whether his character and actions reflected the character and actions we would expect of a king. Wouldn’t we think that a bit strange? Would it not be more normal and wise for Cindy to explore Roy’s claim before committing her life to Roy? Now imagine Cindy had attempted to scrutinize the character of Roy, but Roy had stopped her, claiming that testing him in such a way was forbidden. Roy suggests that, if his actions seem inappropriate, it is only because “his ways are not her ways”, and that she will not be able to comprehend the mysteriousness of his behavior with her less-than-royal intellect. Would not Roy’s prohibition against scrutiny into his character suggest that he was not actually a king?
What if a proposed God did likewise and forbade that we test and scrutinize him before committing our lives to him? Is this something we should expect of an actual God? Imagine that believers in an alleged king or God look aghast at your doubt, and protest “How dare you question the legitimacy of our king/God? You don’t have the intellect of our king/God to assess whether he is actually a king/God!” How would you respond?
Our responsibility as rational humans is to diligently examine all available confirming and disconfirming evidence prior to a commitment of belief. This assessment is first. No evidence is off-limits. Only after assessing all of the evidence can we then assign a degree of belief. If any ideology forbids or discourages the asking of relevant questions prior to belief, that ideology can legitimately be dismissed as likely false since we have good reason to believe that any true ideology will not discourage such testing of its claims.
So, how dare we question the claims of an alleged God? We dare do so as honest seekers who will not neglect our responsibility as honest seekers to test every claim. We dare not, in fact, leave God-claims unquestioned. For every candidate God, we have a duty to compare what we would expect of an actual God against the attributes and acts ascribed to that candidate God. Do we, for example, expect a God competent enough to create the universe, to be so emotionally incontinent that he demands child sacrifice when he is offended? If not, we can safely dismiss that God as improbable. Is a particular God said to be loving, yet stands by while those he claims to love are harmed? If so, we can reject that God as incoherently ungodlike. We don’t accept the claim that God is inscrutable and too “mysterious” for humans to comprehend. We instead ask every relevant question first, and only then adopt an appropriate degree of belief based on that full assessment.
Wouldn’t weighing every candidate God against what we ought to expect from an actual God be rational? Wouldn’t failing to do so be irrational?
Could a truly loving God actually act in a way humans consider unloving? Perhaps. But rationality does not require that we be right. Rationality requires that we merely map our degree of belief to the degree of the evidence as we have honestly assessed it. If we are wrong about what honestly appears to us to be unloving acts of an allegedly loving God, we remain honest truth-seekers so long as we have reached our conclusion honestly. If we have honestly determined that a particular God-claim is false or improbable due to an incongruity between the alleged character of that God and our justified expectations, then that God could condemn us only by forfeiting any claim to be just,
Is it not dishonest to believe in any alleged God for whom remain questions of character and coherency that would render that God false or improbable? Could any just God eternally damn someone for such honestly? Is not a just God far more likely to fully welcome scrutiny rather than deflect apparent absurdities with an appeal to his “mysteriousness”?
The honest seeker can be free of the fear that any actual God would condemn an honest examination of his integrity and coherency. (See also Chapter #45 and “Supplementary A”.)
You might hear the argument “But how can you assess the character of a God without a God first giving you a moral standard through which you can assess his character?” This question is often asked by individuals who have themselves rightly dismissed other alleged Gods who require children be thrown to their deaths from the top of mountains. In this assessment, these individuals did not have to forfeit their own intuition that such Gods are acting unjustly and unlovingly. We need not adopt the inscrutable moral standard of the very God we are questioning. We can likewise simply apply our honestly-derived human notions of justice and love and patience to assess whether a God ascribed such traits actually possesses those traits. We necessarily and quite responsibly default to our own understanding of these concepts rather than absurdly adopting the inscrutable standards of the very God whose existence we are assessing. Sure, our standards are fallible, but they are all we have to honestly work with. Believing in a God and adopting his standards without first assessing his standards against our own is to invert the proper relationship between assessment and belief.
Is it surprising to anyone that, when substituting our own standards of conduct and coherency for the standards of a candidate God to assess that candidate God, the candidate God meets his own standards? Would you let a potential mate apply their own mysterious standards to their worthiness to be your partner?
Once you are willing to accept that love may look like hate, justice like injustice, and patience like impatience based on the inscrutable standards of a candidate God, you have no way to distinguish such a God from a demon.
VERITY: But, if this God is loving as is claimed, why would he act so unloving?
THEO: You can’t use your own notions of right and wrong. You must first accept the standards of this God before you can properly assess this God.
VERITY: Are you sure? That seems a bit dishonest and inverted to me.
THEO: You are fallible. You can not be certain your standards are legitimate. You must assess this God with his own standards.
VERITY: Something still seems illegitimate about assessing a God with his own standards. I still think I should use the standards I’ve arrived at through my own experience.
THEO: Don’t be so arrogant! How dare you question the standards of this God! He is infallible!
VERITY: That’s what I’ve been told. But, shouldn’t we suspend belief in both this alleged god and his alleged standards until we have assess his traits, claims and actions against our own standards?
THEO: You’re not listening! You can’t rebel against God by testing him against your own standards as you seem so arrogantly intent on. He is God!
VERITY: But didn’t you reject the existence other Gods based on their apparent misbehavior or incoherencies without applying the standards of those Gods?
THEO: Well, I applied the standard of my God against those Gods.
VERITY: Then it appears your choice of a God is quite arbitrary. You chose a God without a standard to assess Gods first, and only then adopted that blindly-chosen God’s standards to dismiss other candidate Gods.
THEO: You are just in rebellion. Your arrogant attempt to test God will result in your damnation.