Imagine you have a son mid-puberty. He appears to grow another inch every day, but his vocal cords are struggling to keep up with the man he is becoming. You’ve had the “birds and bees” talk, but whatever knowledge or values you managed to impart were filtered through the teenage mind. One day the police come to your door with a warrant for your son’s arrest. They take him into custody and make his bedroom a crime scene. You don’t get a full explanation until you follow the police cruiser to the station. Internet traffic monitoring provided just cause to make the boy a suspect for multiple counts of pornography viewing. Their CSI team then did a blacklight sweep and discovered suspiciously placed sperm discharges. Your son goes to court and is found guilty of both consuming pornography and masturbation, both serious felonies. He was sentenced to life in prison without parole.
In this alternate reality, not only are watching porn and beating off crimes, they carry the same penalty as the crimes of rape and murder. Replace the word “crime” with “sin” and “police” with “God” and this alternate reality mirrors the divine judgement as described by many religious denominations. Catholicism, for example, considers porn, masturbation, rape and murder interchangeable as mortal sins–meaning that if any of these go unrepented God will send you to hell.
My question to theists is this: would you be comfortable with your government judging crimes the same as you believe God judges sin? I doubt anyone could truthfully answer “yes,” which implies that they’d be fine with their son being hauled away in the above scenario. If I were to guess, I’d say I won’t get many theists answering this question at all. To make this easier, allow me to address what I suspect will be their two main issues with the hypothetical.
“God judges, man should not.” Okay, then I assume you are comfortable with revoking all laws of man. From now on no earthly repercussions for murderers and rapists, let God sort them out. Not ideal? Okay, moving on.
“God sacrificed his only Son to save us from the punishment we deserve, providing we repent and/or accept Jesus as our Savior.” Applying this to our analogy, anyone convicted of a crime, be it masturbation or murder one, will be let free as soon as they admit to the crime and ask forgiveness. This will free up the prisons and put everyone at risk by, again, effectively taking away earthly consequences. I understand that for most religions the asking for forgiveness is ideally sincere and paired with an honest attempt to never sin again, but theists must also admit that the attempt nearly always fails and cite our sinful (or in this case criminal) nature as the cause. Same applies here. A stricter reading of this issue would make the criminal in question need to beg forgiveness from the State, worship either the arresting officer or the President of the State, and act in service of the State until they die in order to escape the sentence of life in prison. God, if he exists in any capacity similar to the beliefs of Abrahamic religions, is no more just or merciful or loving than a totalitarian government with 24/7 surveillance and absolute enforcement. Knowing that I once thought otherwise is a testament to the power of indoctrination.