In my, what seems to be perpetual, wandering, I came across a parable of what a theist felt judgment day would look like. How God would dispense justice. Let’s look at that for a moment.
We have a complete absence (as I previously discussed) when trying to determine what God’s Justice looks like. It is a void. A blank. And, since we all feel like there is this thing—this concept of “Justice”--we fill in the void as best we can. With our own personal sense of Justice. What is right and what is wrong.
Imagine being at Judgment day. God busily doing what God needs to be doing. You are observing. Then God turns to you and says:
“Hey, I’m going to go grab a bite to eat. Can you fill in for an hour or so? It’s easy. We have your hell on this end, heaven on the other and whole world of possibilities between. I don’t have a certain set of rules I follow rigidly. Kinda gut thing, if you know what I mean.
“Sit right here. This is my computer, it gives you complete access to the person, including their true thoughts and motives (don’t listen to what they say, ‘kay?) and if you get into real trouble, Gabriel will come get me. Never fear, use the sense of justice I gave you and it will be fine. Back in an hour…
Case One. The first person you get is a murderer. (Thanks a LOT, God!) This man is a white supremacist that helped a group of his club lynch a black man. You see on the computer he really didn’t want to, and was caught up in the peer pressure of the group. He felt guilty and in fact God’s computer says that it was this guilt that cut 10 years off his life from worrying. But still and all, he is a racist murderer…you dispense justice.
Case Two. Another murderer. (Did God do this on purpose?) This is a woman that was high on crack, and desperate for a fix, held up a convenience store. She stole a grand total of $46. God’s computer informs you that she didn’t know what she was doing. Her brain did not even record her pulling the trigger. But still and all, she voluntarily began to take drugs, and she did kill someone…you dispense justice.
Case Three. Another murderer. Sorta. (This cannot be a coincidence. That tricky God!) Bit of a twist on this one. This is a woman who hated her neighbor. With good reason as near as you (and God’s computer) can tell. The neighbor was one of those miserable people that the whole world hated. Yelled at the neighborhood kids kicking a ball in his yard. Never joined the neighborhood picnic. Picked up each leaf that blew in from her yard with a grimace and condemning glance.
One day, she noticed that he had crumpled over in his lawn chair while monitoring the neighborhood. For a passing moment she thought of calling “911” but the stronger, second thought was, “if he WAS to die, all the better. Maybe a better neighbor could move in.” He did die. She never had a moment of remorse. God’s computer says that if she had called “911,” they would have saved him and he would have lived another 10 years. This one is tricky, but…you dispense justice.
And over the course of that hour, as you make your ruling, a pattern would develop. What we would see is that you provide justice based upon your own experience. Perhaps, if you were a minority, you would be less compassionate on the first person. If you had been addicted to drugs, you may be more understanding on the second. If you had a particularly rotten neighbor, you would be more forgiving of the third.
Or not, depending on who you are. See—our sense of justice has a great deal to do with the era in which we lived, our surroundings, and our upbringing.
If God (the lazy bugger) kept having different people filling in for Him, we would see different justice dispensed. In our current century, we would consider a slave trader a most reprehensible creature. Yet a person from 400, 500 years ago may not even bring it into consideration, other than it was the person’s occupation.
Depending on the person; when and where they came from, some would be harsh on prostitution, others would shrug. Some would be aghast at polygamy, others wouldn’t notice. Smoking pot? One person would dispense justice, another would ignore it entirely.
Remember that TV Commercial where the Native American sees the garbage dump, and a tear rolls down his face? Imagine, with our consumerism and “throw it away” mentality, what his hour would be like. The hour before, the fellow that tossed Fast Food wrappers out the window would be overlooked. That Native American would be tossing him in hell for a very, very long time.
All of which is a long and round-a-bout way of saying that our intuitive sense of justice varies dramatically from person to person, from time to time and from place to place. It is derived from our different experience.
If this is how we derive our justice, would a God do the same? If God’s sense of justice was established prior to creation—what experience did God draw upon to determine what was right and wrong? The only thing that existed would be God. He couldn’t interact with anybody but…God. He couldn’t punish anyone but…God. He couldn’t reward anyone but…God. He couldn’t even conceptualize of a person not doing what God says—no one ever had before. There was no one to do so.
If I ask, “is it O.K. to hit someone?” your mind starts to crunch and analyze. What are the facts surrounding this hitting? How hard? What is the relation of the people involved? What led to this hitting and what was the reaction. And, as our brains are processing, we are comparing to past experiences and knowledge in our life.
God wouldn’t have that luxury. Nothing to draw from to answer the simple question “is it O.K. to hit someone?” ‘Course we could say that he looks into the future as to what could happen, but by virtue of that, God’s reflection on what happens in the future becomes an event in the past. God sees the future, but thinking on that is based on something that happened in the past—God’s seeing the future. (Bakes one’s noodle a bit, eh?)
But God would have to create that future (at least the possibility) first. That, too, is in the past. How can God create something that he has no knowledge of, in order to review it, and after that reflection, create justice, to learn how to implement it on the future event? Good luck with THAT one!
I often read what theists propose God will do at justice-time. Many, horrified (rightly in my opinion) at the concept of eternal torture, do not hold to an everlasting Lake of Fire. Yet in this discussion, what I see is a description of what God’s justice looks like, premised with the two-word qualification, “I think…”
How persuasive is it? This “I think…”? Sure, we “think” that human sacrifice is a reprehensible concept. Our “intuitive” justice would say that this is a problem. Yet, if within that hour on the Judgment Seat, an Aztec sat in that throne, they would not consider human sacrifice anything more reprehensible than a necessary event, like clothing or eating. Over the extensive course of history, that “I think…” would be extremely different between different cultures and different times.
This is one of many areas that I see humans making god in their own image. They determine what they think justice should look like and voila—so does their god. They cannot image a god dispensing justice in a manner they would not and voila—neither does their god.
Seriously, we could not have a clue. We can’t verify what God’s justice is, AND we cannot share with God the basis of our own. Thus it is useless to imagine any such justice is similar to ours. We have experience. God wouldn’t.
When I see a theist indicate what God’s justice will look like; two thoughts come to mind. First, dependant on the type of justice is often a reflection of who that person is. I see some gleefully proclaiming an everlasting torture chamber and wonder if, in life, they equally feel a sense of revenge in punishment. Not retribution, not rehabilitation. Revenge.
Secondly, I wonder if the theist realizes that their imposition of their own sense of justice on god is another nail in god’s coffin. If God is a human construct, it follows that God’s justice would be a human construct as well. If humans cannot agree as what is “just” it equally follows that the god(s) they create cannot agree either.
It’s nice to have an idea of some sort of “ultimate” justice with rewards and punishments for rights and wrongs. But what are the chances, in reflection of history, that God’s sense of justice happens to correlate with our very small vision of our time? Our place? Our culture?