There’s a lot that I don’t agree with Richard Dawkins about. But he once said this in an interview:
“It’s a horrible idea that God, this paragon of wisdom and knowledge and power, couldn’t think of a better way to forgive us our sins than to come down to Earth in his alter ego as his son and have himself hideously tortured and executed so that he could forgive himself.”
This strikes a chord with me and seems to encapsulate something rather absurd about the Christian faith. I think the central point here is one that I discuss often in my books and on this blog – the problem of free will. Christians might argue that in the act of Jesus’ crucifixion God is not forgiving himself but sinful human beings.
When Dawkins talks about God ‘forgiving himself’, the implication is that God is in control of sin and therefore that we don’t have free will, which is also what I believe. If we don’t have free will then the whole notion of forgiveness is absurd, because human beings can have done nothing freely that would need forgiving. In this light the story of the crucifixion is very strange indeed.
The reason why I don’t believe we have free will is because I believe in a God who is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent. Everything that exists is a part of God, and this means that God must be in control of everything that happens, including what is referred to as ‘sin’.
The following quote from Epicurus is apposite here:
Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent.
Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent.
Is he both able, and willing? Then whence cometh evil?
Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God.
My response to Epicurus would be that God is able to prevent evil, but not willing. But I disagree that this necessarily makes God malevolent. It may be that God has very good reasons for creating evil in the world. Perhaps, if God himself suffers terribly, then He creates evil to give us a taste of what ultimate reality is like for Him. In what way does God suffer? I have explored that question here.
In summary, then, Richard Dawkins has highlighted that if God is in control of our existence (as I believe He is), the story of human redemption through Jesus’ crucifixion makes very little sense.
What do you think about the quote from Richard Dawkins? Is God responsible for sin?