“If god (however you perceive him/her/it) told you to kill your child – would you do it? If your answer is no, in my booklet you’re an atheist…There is doubt in your mind. Love and morality are more important than your faith. If you answer is yes, please reconsider.” – Penn Jillette
What follows was inspired by this question asked by Penn in his book, God, No!
All I did was reframe it, expand it, and turn it into a very unscientific Facebook experiment to torment a few Christian friends of mine.
Feel free to steal, in whole or in part, what I have presented here and conduct your own little online or email experiment. Fun!
To my Christian friends, I have two simple questions. They’re not trick questions, so don’t read into them. Answer with a simple Yes or No. And no equivocations please.
1. Do you personally know god’s will? That is, do you know specifically what he will or won’t do (or allow) in the future as it pertains to his plan for you? Again, specifically, not in a general “glorify his name” sense.
YES or NO?
2. If god spoke to you and commanded you to dedicate your life from this day forward to his service in the church ministry of your choice, would you take the leap of faith and trust his plan for you?
YES or NO?
Let’s all agree that every [even semi-lucid] Christian is being set up, or rather forced, into answering NO and YES, respectively. Not even the most rabid evangelical would dare presume to know god’s will and plan for them. And as for the second question, whether or not they would actually go through with it, you’d be hard-pressed to find many Christians who would admit to refusing god’s direct orders – especially under such hypothetical circumstances.
Patience and Disappointment
I waited several hours for all my Christian pals to chime and unknowingly box themselves into a corner. But I underestimated their restraint and failed to consider the possibility that what might happen actually would happen.
I consider myself to be a fairly good debater, and I’m well aware that I all too often come in over the top and browbeat my opponents into submission. I’ve even harangued many to tears. Anyway, my friends are all too familiar with my trap-and-ambush tactics, so sadly they didn’t take the bait this time, except for a few who were brave enough to mix it up. They were good sports and I appreciate their participation.
Okay, so a few chimed in and answered my questions as requested with the predicted responses: (1) NO and (2) YES. There were no equivocations, obfuscations, disclaimers, or provisos.
This is what I wanted and expected, and I certainly can’t complain. But I do take satisfaction that (while they remained silent) the intended audience got the message loud and clear when they read what follows. The evil in me derives infinitely more pleasure from those who silently stew in it. And I can assure you, they did.
Then I posted what follows.
The Coup de Grace
Okay, now the fun part…
First, remind yourself of your answer to question #1.
How dare anyone have the temerity to presume to know god’s will. How profound must one’s arrogance be to presume to know what god will or won’t do as it pertains to his plan for them! But relax. You all answered no. Mazel tov, and I appreciate your intellectual honesty. You can’t possibly know god’s will or intentions for you.
Now open your bible and read Genesis 22:1-14.
One final question…
3. If god spoke to you and commanded you to kill your children, would you take the leap of faith and trust his plan for you?
YES or NO?
First, abandon any and all knee-jerk freewill excuses you’re scrambling to find. Freewill is a given and it has nothing to do with any of this. Yes, you have freewill. Kudos to you. Do or do not do. It doesn’t matter and I really don’t care which way you go with it. This is about faith – not freewill. In fact, freewill is a necessary given for the question. That is to say, if you didn’t have freewill, then the question itself would be pointless. Abandon the freewill ship, dude. Nothing on it can save you.
And unfortunately for you, you can’t sidestep this inquiry by saying, “Well, god wouldn’t do that. It’s not in his nature.” WRONG! It is in his nature because he has done it before. The bible says so, and quiet clearly in fact.
Add to all this, no one (and that includes you) can possibly know his divine will or his life plan for them as you were happy to concede just a short while ago. And add to that, the bible is filled with MANY tests of faith to back this up – including the one just dumped on you. And please don’t think that pretending to be angry will work as an out. It’s a fair question and I’m going to hold you to it.
Now I’m happy with any response. Clearly, an obfuscation (which won’t work) or a refusal to answer the question (which won’t work) is most satisfying to me for obvious reasons, but I’m expecting to hear an intellectually honest “NO” wrapped in some tortured rationalization (which also won’t work). Granted this last option would keep you among the ranks of the sane – but at the expense of your faith.
Sorry, but faith is binary. There is no gray.
- Complete trust or confidence in someone or something.
- Strong belief in God or in the doctrines of a religion, based on spiritual apprehension rather than proof.
belief – trust – confidence – credence – credit
Faith isn’t a sliding scale that you can tune in and out of to suit your desiring and proclivities. If it were, then it wouldn’t be faith. It would be some variable blanket of security that you use to cover yourself up with when it’s cold outside, and then throw on the floor when it turns toasty warm. [long pause for that to sink in]
Or perhaps it is…
God tells you become a minister and you take the leap of faith without hesitation or equivocation. God (through the bible) tells you to do many things that you comply with on a regular (and probably daily) basis I’m certain…until his will conflicts with yours and your love of your children. This clearly trumps your obedience to god, I have to assume. Very convenient and duplicitous I must say!
And so I ask, got faith?
And claiming to be a fallible human who can’t be expected to answer such an awful question, or arguing that my hypothetical test of faith itself isn’t fair, doesn’t get you out of answering it either.
Two simples reasons:
One, because it’s harmless and purely hypothetical.
Two, and this is where your excuse completely falls apart, because Abraham was no more or less fallible a human than you are. Moreover, god didn’t find the test to be unfair for him, so why should you deserve any special consideration?
My goal here, despite what you may think, is not to agitate but rather to get you to recognize how hollow your faith really is.
Re-read the definition of faith (above), wrap your head around the phrase “COMPLETE TRUST OR CONFIDENCE” and then kick and scream all you want. But if your answer to question #3 isn’t a resolute and resounding yes, sorry, but you have no true faith. Period. And what a fucking shame it is that you can neither understand, like, nor accept the meaning of the word. Congrats. You’re either an idiot or a liar. And a bad one at that.
What you do have should be fairly labeled something else, and specifically what I really don’t care. But true faith, no. You have none. By the way, I wouldn’t have said yes either. What kind of monster would? (Yes, that’s right. Abraham was a monster even if he did as god commanded.) The only question that remains unanswered is, what kind of monster exactly are you?
Of course there’s one final out in conceding the possibility that the bible is a work of fiction. It will kind of (but not totally) get you out of having to answer the question, but it will also bring down the house of cards, so I assume you won’t go there.
Is this mean? No. It’s honest and fair. (Are you?)
Once again, and finally, if god spoke to you and commanded you to kill your children, would you take the leap of faith and trust his plan for you?
YES or NO?
Let the tortured rationalizations begin!
Note: To those of you who didn’t respond, this train has already left the station. I’ve been watching you post throughout the day, and I know you read mine long, long ago. Chiming in now having not committed to the first two questions is not within the spirit of the experiment. Wagers must be placed on the table before the dice are thrown, so now please keep it to yourself.
Needless to say, the knee-jerk rationalizations flew after I dropped the diatribe above. I debated whether or not to post their actual responses here but opted not to as they’re all people I know personally.
But all of the responses fell into one or more of the following textbook regurgitations to justify either their answer of “NO” or to avoid giving any answer at all:
- I would conclude that I was having a psychotic episode.
- God didn’t give the commandment to not kill until after Abraham’s test of faith.
- God would never tell someone who’s not a prophet (like Abraham) to do such a thing.
- God no longer tests faith in this manner because we all live in his grace (after the sacrifice of his son).
- God never intended to let Abraham to kill his son (as proved by the fact that he stopped the act).
This is just a partial list of responses, but the rest were non-specific obfuscations that are just too insane to merit inclusion.
Clearly, all of the above are easily put to bed with one quick back-handed bitchslap:
You fucking moron, you can’t possibly know god’s plan for you or anyone else. What the bible (old or new testament) recounts is wholly irrelevant because even if it were true it’s in the past. God is eternal and he decides what the future brings. Once again, god is the lawgiver, he sets the rules, he can do whatever the fuck he pleases even if it’s a reversal of a prior act or law. It’s his world and you can’t presume to know what he will do within it or outside of it. He can test anyone, any time, and in any fucking manner he chooses. But I appreciate your panicky attempt to sidestep any intellectually honest answer to the question.
And as frightful as this might sound, one of my zealot friends actually admitted (through an implication that I’m not at liberty to repeat) that she would kill her children if god told her to. And she wasn’t kidding. Folks, what makes you think that the only dangerous religious nutbags in this world are the one who fly planes into buildings?
I want to thank (one of my heroes) Penn Jillette for bringing this impactful question to light. Please buy his most recent book and support all that he and Teller do to shed logic and light on human weakness and gullibility.