Why I don’t believe in organised religion can largely be summed up in this video:
Hell, and the idea of obedience in fear of eternal punishment, are such barbarically human concepts, that they couldn’t possibly come from an all knowing, all loving God (and unsurprisingly they stem from social oppression – http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p0054914).
Compassion, not vengeance, is something I’d expect from a prospective deity; and that’s about understanding, acceptance, and ultimately unconditional forgiveness. That means you have the capacity, wisdom, and strength of character to forgive everyone on the planet (past and present), regardless of who they are or what they’ve done, for just being human (capable of making mistakes, waging war, being weak, cowardly, selfish, petty, cruel, violent, fearful, ignorant, bigoted, psychopathic, and generally flawed). It means you understand and accept that everyone is simply just trying to struggle through life, learning what they can, seeking fulfilment, meaning, acceptance, and love where they find it, and generally trying their damnedest to make the best of the short time they have. Some people may find it difficult to forgive everyone, as it is entirely inclusive, but hey, they’re only human. God, on the other hand, should be setting a higher example, because for me, the purpose of God, on a moral level, is to exemplify virtues like wisdom, learning, charity, and compassion – not judge people for being disobedient subjects.
Hypothetical question: what are the moral implications of forgiving the Christian God for the eternal torture of human souls? The same God that demands absolute obedience through ignorance and threat of violence? (not because he knows best, or they had it coming; but because you understand that he’s a flawed, human construct also struggling to survive against increasing irrelevance). Or put another way: if you can absolutely and unconditionally forgive God for being a cruel and vengeful deity (as well as all the pain, suffering, war and murder that has been caused in his name) and yet — he won’t forgive you for your ‘sins’ — morally where does that put you? (besides hell, of course)
Arguably, all this shouldn’t be considered as more than a philosophical thought exercise, however wars are still fought and justified in the name of God. Therefore, our leaders should be held to the same standard – for if God doesn’t stand up to moral reasoning, then where does that put those who act in his name and enforce his word? The word ‘Evil’, when used earnestly, comes from a fundamental lack of understanding human behaviour and motivation, and I think you should be very wary when an elected authority judges another person or group as “Evil”. Behaviour could be generically described as ‘evil’ as a blanket term for lack of moral responsibility; but people absolutely can’t, because that’s an exercise in denial and dehumanisation. Dehumanisation, perhaps, is the one true sin of mankind — to disregard another person’s worth, and treat them as less equal, less deserving, less than human — for whatever reason. Moreover, as soon as they dehumanise them, they are drawing a line in the sand between “them” and “us”… and that, sadly, is how wars are started – as some six millennia of violence will attest to.