The Almighty Exempt

In a discussion on Facebook, a Christian recently said the following two things in subsequent posts in the same thread:

Personally, from a christian perspective, I find “owning somebody else” not much less repulsive than “owning oneself.” They are both travesties of how things ought to be.

and then

From a biblical perspective, God is the sole rightful owner of everything, and we can or should hold it in stewardship on his behalf, including ourselves.

In other words, the idea of owning another human being is “repulsive” unless God is the one doing the owning.

This illustrates a principle Christians rely on from time to time when defending their faith: God, so they claim, is exempt from every rule we ourselves follow. He has no obligations to behave in any particular way, but has complete freedom to do whatever he chooses. (These, mind you, are often the same people who argue, when it is convenient for them, that it is God’s nature to do good – that he simply couldn’t choose any differently.)

The implications of this principle are profound. FIrst and foremost, it excuses God from all the immoral acts reported in the Bible. If God were beholden to the basic moral rules he expects his creation to follow, he would be in really big trouble. It is necessary, then, to give God an exemption. So it goes for ownership also. We are not supposed to own other people – most modern Christians believe slavery to be wrong, even though their holy text does not speak out against it – yet God is allowed to own us. Indeed, some of the New Testament authors use slavery as an analogy for the God-believer relationship.

No person in his right mind would ever grant a political leader the moral carte blanche given to God, and rightly so. Yet believers consider their god to be so completely trustworthy that even when he does the sorts of things that would land a mortal man in the International Criminal Court in the Hague, they actually make excuses for him. Just think about that for a moment: Christians trust that God’s motives are so pure and so dependable, that even in the face of the very things they would hastily condemn in their fellow humans, they insist that some explanation – some excuse – must exist, even though they don’t know what it is. It is quite an astounding, Orwellian feat of psychology.

Unfortunately this psychological trick taints the morality of Christians themselves. I have known some deeply moral, compassionate Christians in my lifetime. These are beautiful people who do wonderful things for others. Yet you look at what is written in the Bibles they carry with them, and it is hard not to recoil with disgust at many of the things written therein. What allows such good, honest people to associate their noble actions with such a jealous, barbaric figure as Yahweh? Perhaps the allure of the more pacifist portrayals of Jesus is what seals the deal. A pity, then, that more people cannot draw inspiration from Jesus without having to commit themselves to defending the rest of the Bible. Ironically, an atheist approach would actually free them to do this.


7 Responses to The Almighty Exempt

  1. L.Long says:

    The way this works is my father owns me. He orders me not to use bad language, chase women, have sex, smoke, etc mean while he does all and more and I also have to have his permission to do anything and usually don’t have permission to do much, hell I can’t even eat shrimp!..My father can also beat me and shower me me with strife and hardship, and glory be his name.
    How long would it take for the kid to run away from home??? And would the kid have a legal case for abuse??
    And yet they then except even worse stuff from the psychotic sky-fairy that someone just made up?? I could sort of understand if yahway was actually here doing something which is just as well he isn’t around as about 16% of us would be trying to find a way to destroy it.

    • Mikel says:

      The saddest part would be if the kid in this situation continued to worship and adore the father, and believed that his suffering was his own fault because he didn’t live up to the fathers standards.

  2. I think that Yahweh is quite capable of that which we are obviously capable of as well. He kills, we kill. I see a lot of ourselves within Him. He created us, so why not? We are created in HIS IMAGE.

    I don’t have explanation for what I don’t understand about God; I have acceptance. I have trust, but primarily I have a healthy respect or even fear of Him.I don’t think God is someone to be messing with; thus I don’t intend to.

    Though I don’t understand God completely or even know Him completely, I know enough to know He loves me and that He is merciful. The rest of the knowing will come in due time..

  3. Keith says:


    “I think that Yahweh is quite capable of that which we are obviously capable of as well. He kills, we kill. I see a lot of ourselves within Him. He created us, so why not? We are created in HIS IMAGE.”

    Agreed, but that was not really my point. My point was that he himself doesn’t follow the moral standard he sets for us. We’re expected to do as he says, not do what he does. That doesn’t seem to be a very good characteristic in a leader.

  4. Here’s the dilemma, Keith, from a purely logic-based perspective, all emotion and warm fuzzies being left out of the equation:

    !) God is whom He is, regardless of your or my approval.

    2) God’s “inconsistencies” are frankly His business, not ours. He created us and could obviously wipe us off of the map if He chose to. He can be loving; He can also be ruthless and harsh, based upon what the bible tells us about His past actions.

    3) Should you and the other atheists have decided erroneously that there is no God, you will then have to deal with your unfortunate mistake. Based upon what the bible tells us, there will be consequences for the mistaken decisions/choices you’re making now and have made in the past.

    4) The bible tells us that “every knee shall bow, every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.” You can demand an explanation for what you don’t approve of within God’s character/actions/history that are declared for us within the bible; I don’t think it will be paramount within your mind at that point, however. Do you think it will? I think you’ll likely be in shock and probably horrified that you judged this situation in error.

    5) In the Star Trek series/movies, when we find out that alien life forms exist, there is a rude awakening and eventually an acceptance and respect that is arrived at, or the participants go to war against the alien life form. I don’t get the gist from reading you and your regular commentary that you’re the “warring type.”

    My point is this. Maybe work on acceptance of what you don’t understand NOW — acceptance and respect. Our minds are pea-sized compared to the mind of God; I would be willing to bet that He knows what He’s doing and why.

  5. L.Long says:

    And in the Star Trek movies when we stumble across some ancient alien that turns out to be one of our gods, we told S/He/IT to go away cuz we don’t need S/He/IT.
    Or as on SGU when the ORI started throwing its g0d-like powers around, we found a way to get rid of them.
    But none of that matters because fiction is not real so acceptance is not required.
    But as stated above if you were treated by someone as the buyBull talks of g0d you would not put up with it. The reason that many can accept what the buyBull describes is because that stuff does not really occur.

  6. Keith says:


    You almost seem to have forgotten that I don’t believe that God exists. There is little point in asking me to accept and respect something I think is purely imaginary. Do you accept and respect leprechauns? Fairies?

    And you must remember that only Christians consider the Bible to be authoritative. You cannot, then, expect to convince me that I’ll be forced to bow down to Jesus when I die just because the Bible says I will. In all likelihood, the Bible is wrong on that point, as it is on many others.

    But let me get back to the original point of the post. I’m glad you recognize that God is not always loving. But what you seem to be concluding from this is the following: we do what God asks us to do not because he has earned our respect by being consistently loving and moral, but because he holds our fate in his hands, so we’d better do what he tells us or else.

    In short, your premise seems to be that there is this powerful, unpredictable being out there that we should try our hardest to mollify, for our own protection. Indeed, this being’s default position is that we all deserve eternal torture for our sins. The only way we can escape this fate is by swearing fealty to him, ingratiating ourselves before him (in some cases, like Islam, we are actually required, literally, to grovel). Such a situation would seem worth rebelling against as a matter of principle, even if it were true!

    But what’s so sad about this situation is that it clearly is not true. It is the misplaced conjecture of people who lived long ago in a superstitious culture with little understanding of the natural world. Indeed, you only believe it in the first place because (like me) you were indoctrinated as a child: you happened to have been born in a Christian country and raised to believe that the Bible is the inspired word of God. If you had been born in India, you’d be advocating Hindu beliefs today, and the tyranny of the Christian God would be as repulsive to you as it is to me.

    The whole thing is almost funny: looking at Christians and Muslims and Hindus is a bit like seeing someone growing up thinking that Zeus causes lightning. The only reason I don’t actually laugh out loud is because I too was under the spell of these beliefs, for many years – I know how easy it is to be indoctrinated. It’s a good lesson to learn about human psychology, that’s for sure.

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