Challenge: God Is a Psychopath

Posted: April 17, 2012 by Amy Hall in Do the Right Thing, God is Real, Weekly Challenge

Here’s a video that uses an analogy to show Christians their God is a psychopath. Whenever someone uses an analogy to challenge you, the first thing you need to do is see if the story being presented is dissimilar to Christianity in significant ways such that its conclusion, and the feelings it invokes, can’t rightly be applied to Christianity. So, does this video fail? And if so, how? How would you respond to a friend who sent this to you? Is God a psychopath? And if not, what can you explain to your friend about God and human beings that will present a more accurate picture of Him?

As always, Brett will be here on Thursday to give his response and let you know how you did.

Comments
  1. Well, after watching this, the guy in the video sure seems like a psychopath. However, I remember the last time we had an analogy as a weekly challenge, Alan pointed out that an analogy doesn’t actually prove anything, it is only meant to clarify the position of the challenger. Therefore, we need to ask if the analogy is really similar to God in a morally relevant way. If not, the critic is guilty of a weak analogy. His comparison fails and the argument crumbles.

    So, is the relationship between God and his creation different than that of a man with an ant farm? Yes, there are many significant differences.

    First, it should be noted that humans and ants are fundamentally different kinds of creatures. The video shows that it is ridiculous for someone to think that ants could be held morally responsible for their actions. They don’t have consciences and simply do what comes naturally. For the man to think he could possibly teach them to behave differently is ludicrous. However, if this comparison between the man and his ants is really analogous to God and mankind, then why do we as humans expect each other to behave morally? Even most atheists agree that objective moral truths exist. This is why we have a criminal justice system and punish those who commit crimes. If we really are just a sort of animal like the ants that can only do what instinct compels, then we cannot ourselves hold each other responsible morally. If it is not unreasonable for us to demand a standard of moral behavior among ourselves, I don’t think it’s unreasonable that God could as well. Unlike the ants, he gave us the capacity for moral reasoning. The very fact that we criticize the man’s behavior towards the ants shows that we are not even remotely similar to ants.

    Next, the critic has tried to paint God as an egotistical megalomaniac demanding love and worship from creatures that by their very nature are unable to give it to him. Well, once again, we are capable of love and worship unlike the ants. However, saying God is a megalomaniac is to fundamentally misunderstand why He wants our worship. It’s not that He needs us to worship him or that we somehow make Him more complete, it’s that He wants us to worship Him for our own benefit. God knows that He is the only thing that can satisfy our desires and make our lives fulfilled. Worshiping God brings us into a personal relationship with him that transcends anything the world can offer. It’s not an act of pride on God’s part.

    He also seems to indicate that God is cruel and proud of it. The man takes pleasure in punishing his sinful ants, plucking off their legs and sending them to “hell” where he watches them burn in agony. To this challenge, I always point out that close examination of the Bible shows that God does not send drastic punishments upon persons or nations without giving them a fair opportunity to change their ways (example: Jonah was sent to Nineveh, a foreign and unbelieving city to tell them to repent). It nowhere indicates that God takes pleasure in adjudication. It’s true that God made examples of many sinners throughout the Bible, but even in these cases where some deem His judgment too harsh, the individuals being punished knew what they were doing wrong and deliberately chose to disobey God. This is unlike the ants that do not have the capacity for moral reasoning.

    Also, critics of Christianity need to get past all the imagery of hell as a burning torture chamber that God has deliberately made as such for everyone who does not believe. It’s true that this is an accurate description of hell based on the apocalyptic imagery found throughout the Bible. However, as C.S. Lewis noted, the aspect of hell that truly makes it torture is that it is the complete absence of God. By definition, for God (the source of all goodness) to be absent would be the most terrible thing imaginable. God has given everyone the free will and moral reasoning skills to choose Him instead of going to hell. For God to create some sort of neutral ground for unbelievers would be logically incoherent.

    Finally, God cannot be compared to the man in this video because he did something that the man is not capable of doing. He became human in the person of Jesus Christ and suffered our punishment for us. Although it is not possible, it’s interesting to note that the person in the video never contemplates transforming into an ant and walking among his ant farm, speaking their language and enduring their hardships. He never speaks of enduring the punishment himself so that they may live. I believe this is the most fundamental difference between God and mankind and the man and his ant farm.

    • Mark in Columbia, MO says:

      Spencer, you wrote: ” It’s true that this is an accurate description of hell based on the apocalyptic imagery found throughout the Bible.”

      I’d ask the question: is it accurate? Or is it rather descriptive of the imagery found OUTSIDE the Bible?

      • I was refering to the description of hell/the second death as a “lake of fire” in Revelations 20. However, you rightly point out that a great deal of critics are probably drawing on sources outside the Bible for their descriptions of hell.

  2. Mark in Columbia, MO says:

    I accept the conclusion — I wholeheartedly condemn the Ant Man as a pyschopath. Then …. so what? Is the argument that the man with the oven and the tweezers and the tray …. doesn’t exist? Is that a rational conclusion? I see him. I judge him. I am repulsed. Therefore he doesn’t exist?

    No, that doesn’t seem to follow. If my perception is to be trusted then I am justified in my repulsion — I shouldn’t be skeptical of my perception, necessarily, because of my repulsion. Rather, if the conclusion doesn’t follow the premise, either the conclusion is wrong or the premises don’t hold.

    Or, what of my moral perception? Am I rightly repulsed by the Ant Man? If so, is my repulsion merely a personal preference? Torturing ants is simply not my cup of tea? Or is the behavior objectively wrong? If it’s wrong, whether I think so or not, then on what do I ground my moral perception? Surely not on the character of Ant Man. There must be some OTHER grounding for my moral perception, some other personal being whose character grounds morality. Perhaps I should seek THAT personal being rather than this repulsive Ant Man?

    Is it possible that our repulsion at the morality of the Ant Man is a clue to the riddle’s answer? Is … it … (said with a whiiiisper) … possible?!!!

  3. Well, it seems that appealing to emotions using a bad analogy and dramatic music is just the proof that we need to show that God doesn’t exist.

    Yawn…

    Did the psychopath create the ants with a moral conscience?
    Did he create them in his own image?
    Did the psychopath create them at all?

    Did the psychopath love those ants enough to sacrifice himself to provide a vicarious penal substitutionary atonement for those “sinful” ants?

    Did the psychopath then rise again, thus conquering the power of sin and death on behalf of the helpless ants?

    The makes of this video are either,
    1) Woefully ignorant of Christian theology, or
    2) Flat out lying, willfully violating the 8th commandment (bearing false witness) for purposes of demagoguery. Who’s the evil one here?

    I suspect it’s probably a bit of both, actually.

  4. (Just subscribing to followups)

  5. Kevin Walker says:

    Well there is NO doubt that the video is spectacularly well done. The visuals were stunning, the music powerful, and the monologue well written. But I’m afraid these may be the only positive things to say. I cannot add much to everyone else. But the analogy is simply lacking concerning the VERY ATTRIBUTES to which it HAS to be analogous in order to work. Ants are not moral or free beings. Humans are. And the human is not holy, omniscient, omnipotent, just, etc. being. God is. This has pretty much been covered above. The video is meant to show that God is unjust by separating people from himself, but this JUST IS to assume that God is not holy or just. So if you think about it, in order for the objector to prove this about God, he would almost need to assume that God’s character is NOT holy or just before even making the argument. But of course this begs the entire question at hand, namely, what is God’s character? Is God just? If a view is to be critiqued, it should not be a strawman, but the entire, fully orbed view in its strongest form. This video, although incredibly intriguing and well done (and entertaining even) does not come close to giving us that.

  6. Tom Loghry says:

    The first most fundamental problem with this video, is the very analogy itself. The ant is a poor representation of a human primarily because the ant has no moral intuition. Humans on the other hand, do have a sense of what is right and what is wrong, and rather than do what is right they choose to do what is wrong. The ant acts out of ignorance, whereas the human acts knowledgeably against what is right in favor of what is wrong. As it says in Romans 2:15, “the work of the law is written on their heart.” This changes the game completely.

    Another problem is that this film tries to draw a parallel between the ants inability to do otherwise because he is driven by instincts and the human inability to be perfectly righteous. However, the key difference between humans and ants is that we are not merely driven by instincts. We have a free will, and contain the ability to act against what would be considered “instinctual.” It also must be mentioned that man was given a choice in the garden to obey or be placed under the curse. Such isn’t the case with the ants.

    Lastly, getting back to something related to the first paragraph, it must be noted that outside of general revelation and our moral intuition, God has successfully communicated with human beings through His Word. This film makes this “god” seem foolish for trying to communicate with the ants because ants don’t have the capacity to read messages he set up. Even if we granted the film that, it misses the biggest act of communication when God humbled himself and came in the form of a man, yet “god” did not become an ant in this film.

    As a final note of reflection, I think we need to ponder what this film is saying about morals by using this representation of ants. If what is immoral in the eyes of God is merely what is natural, is the creator of this film promoting a world that is amoral? Is fighting, killing, raping, merely what comes natural? If immorality is just what comes natural, why is it unjust for God to punish us and yet fully just for our court systems to judge and punish such actions?

    Talk about the height of hypocrisy.