Sunday, February 21, 2016

I Would Make a Terrible God

I recently watched a three-part TV miniseries adapted from Arthur C. Clarke’s novel “Childhood’s End”. I had read that book as a teenager, but couldn’t really remember what it was about. After watching the miniseries, I decided to pull out my old paperback of the novel (yes, I still have it) and re-read it just to see how closely the miniseries followed it. As it turns out only the main plot line was the same. All the details were quite different.

For those of you not familiar with this book, the gist of it is that mankind has reached a pinnacle in its evolutionary development. An alien race is sent to Earth to oversee its final stages. These aliens are called Overlords by humans. The Overlords are godlike in that they can monitor essentially all human activity on Earth and stop any major nefarious activities before they happen. In short order, bad people gave up even attempting to execute their evil plots as they knew they would be thwarted by the Overlords. Peace begins to reign over the world.

I found myself kind of liking these Overlords. In fact, I realized that if I were God, I would probably do something very similar to what they do in the novel. I would use my omniscient and omnipotent powers to keep an eye on all activity on Earth. If I saw a 35-year-old man attempting to rape a 10-year-old child, I would put a stop to it. I might freeze the man in carbonite like Han Solo, or I might just castrate him. Or, given that I would know well in advance what he was going to do, I might just make sure he never exists. In other words, I’d be a terrible God.

Some of you might be thinking, “So, what’s so bad about doing that? I don’t want to see that young child raped either.” Well, it apparently has something to do with free will. I hear a lot of people say that God is good in that he gives humanity free will. We can use that free will to do good or to do evil. God is gracious in allowing us the freedom to choose our own course in life, even if that course leads to other people’s free will being denied. I, on the other hand, wouldn’t be so gracious. It would be too troublesome to me to be that gracious. I would not be able to just sit by and let one human decimate another, especially since it would only take an infinitesimal amount of my attention and power to put a stop to these things. I figure that, just like in the novel, if I zap the bad guys enough, the rest of them will get the message and quit even trying to do evil.

Here’s the way I would look at it. I want all people to have free will…to a point. But if one human being is trying to take away other human beings’ free will by using direct force on them, I would feel compelled to put a halt to the perpetrator’s free will in order to protect the free will of the victim. I would much rather keep the good person’s free will intact than the bad person’s. That’s just the way I roll. Not very God-like I know, but to paraphrase the old Sinatra song, “I’d do it MY WAY!”

Now, don’t get me wrong, bad things could still happen to a person in my world. Accidents could still happen, for instance. I wouldn’t want people to become cocky in their decision making knowing that I would always bail them out. Also, indirect bad things could still happen to people as the result of the actions of others. For example, suppose a longtime business owner suddenly found himself losing business because a new competitor came to town. If that new competitor drives the old business out of business because they offer better products, prices, and services, then I would not put a stop to that. That’s one person using his free will to compete honestly against another person using his free will in a sea of customers using their free will to decide which business to do business with. All very kosher, even if the old business fails. However, if a new businessman came to town and tried to beat his competition by burning his store down, that I would stop.

So, as you can easily see, I would make a terrible God. I wouldn’t be able to restrain myself from interfering with the evil decisions of my creation.

But, wait a minute! Where does the definition of good and evil come from? Who gets to define these terms? Well, according to most folks I talk to, that would be God. So, if I was God, then I could just declare my way of doing things to be good.

Wow! I’m now beginning to feel better about myself. I guess I wouldn’t be that bad a God after all, especially since I would get to make the rules.

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