Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Satan’s school report: must try harder

Heh.  I’m a little impatient when people try to stack up the number of deaths attributed to religion against those attributed to atheism, not least because nobody can agree on who’s to blame.  Faith-heads, for example, would prefer to chalk up Hitler’s score to atheism while atheists might point out that Hitler appeared to be a lifelong Catholic or at least often invoked god when urging people to horrendous action.  Besides, it’s a bit more complicated than that.  While nobody would suggest Stalin was motivated by religion, it seems quite a stretch to suggest he was motivated by lack of religion, either.  What would that even mean? 

So it’s all highly subjective and I don’t see much point to the exercise anyway. If religion were found to have caused fewer deaths, would this necessarily mark it as a superior morality?  And what if we were somehow able to argue that it did imply a superior morality?  It still wouldn’t make the claims of religion true. 

So I’m unimpressed by these accounting games.  However, over at WEIT, Jerry Coyne has posted about something a little more objective.  According to the bible, how many people did god killl?  He quotes this article, which gives actual numbers where they’re available in the bible and estimated ones where there’s no number.

The results?

Biblical number: 2,476,636

Biblical number plus estimates: 24,634,205

That’s 25 million.  By contrast, as Jerry points out, Satan’s score is…….

Ten. 

The children of Job.  And he only did this with god’s permission as part of a particularly cruel bet to test Job’s faith!

I’m sure these figures have nothing to say about the relative moralities or benefits of god vs the devil, particularly since neither exist.  But I fully expect theologians to tie themselves in knots over this silly question anyway. 

A few years ago I spent far too long reading through a site that had bible chapters illustrated in comic style and I wanted to post it here, but I can’t find it Sad smile

Update: I found it!  I had forgotten that the stories were illustrated in lego, not pictures.  Here’s the story of Job as mentioned above.

Another update: It turns out that I’ve been selling Satan short.  He killed all Job’s servants as well, of which he had “a great number”.  Presumably not tens of millions though.

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