A Question for Believers – Are there any limits to your faith?

I was listening to Penn Says (a podcast from Penn Jillette of Penn and Teller fame), and in one of his episodes, he posed a rhetorical question to make a point, that I’m actually taking more serious than I think he intended.

His question was, if god asked you to kill your child, would you do it?
(This can be “god” in whatever form you believe god exists, as jesus, allah, FSM, etc)
(And you can be asked by “god” in any form, that doesn’t matter, it could be a burning bush, jesus himself coming down from the sky, spelled out in a bowl of spaghetti-o’s, whatever)

Assuming that you do not know WHY you’re to kill your child, only that “god” ordered it, would you go through with it? I’d also add to this, if you would, is there something, anything actually, that under some circumstance you would NOT do it, if asked by “god”?

I’d REALLY like to hear your answers, and much more importantly, your reasons for those answers.

For the sake of full disclosure for those who are coming to here for the first time; I am an atheist, if that makes any difference in your view of this question or this blog (as it seemingly does for some).


(As a small aside, a friend of mine who is a believer refused to answer the question on the grounds that a good and just god would never demand such a thing. Apparently he has never read the bible, specifically the story of Abraham and Issac, which while not a perfect replica of this situation, is more than close enough to put this scenario into the realm of possibility.)

For those interested in following more opinions on this subject, I have also posted this question in another forum at the JREF and Rodibidably. For those interested, I’d highly recommend checking out the JREF post for a very good discussion on this subject from a number of perspectives (although it does get a tad sidetracked a few times).

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About Jeff Randall

Jeff Randall is a frequent volunteer for free-thought organizations, including the Center For Inquiry – DC. Having been blogging since January 2008, he decided that a community of bloggers would be an interesting new experience (or at the very least a fun way to annoy his friends into reading his posts more frequently). Since finding out about about the existence of, and then joining, the atheist/skeptic community in 2007 he has been committed to community activism, critical thinking in all aspects of life, science, reason, and a fostering a secular society.
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19 Responses to A Question for Believers – Are there any limits to your faith?

  1. Pingback: A Question for Believers – Are there any limits to your faith? | Rodibidably

  2. Jeff Randall says:

    Creepiest answer ever from Yahoo Answers:

    Leahcim

    God calls me to love, and so I try to Love the way Christ Jesus loved us,

    But if God told me to kill, I would not heistate one bit, and I would do more than kill, I would butcher people, burn down their houses, and take the ashes of their places devoted to anti-God, and cast them into outer space, never to have a place in this world again.

    You better be glad God commanded me to Love, because I would be merciless, if He told me to kill. I would be a Joshua for sure. I would kill cat, dog, cattle, babies, pregant women, and whoever God commanded me to kill, like He told Joshua to do it.

    I wouldnt sleep until everyone and everything was smashed into a meat grinder, and a river of blood miles long filled the seas.

  3. To answer your first question – “are there any limits to your faith,” my answer would be yes. Because I am human, therefore I am limited in everything I do. But also, faith is trust in God, and God can do anything, so in that sense, my faith in Him is unlimited.

    I think the question would be more appropriately stated, “are there any limits to what you would do for your faith?” Yes. I wouldn’t kill people who didn’t believe, because this goes against the commandments of Jesus in the new testament. I wouldn’t kill my child, because that would be stupid. However, members of other faiths would. Like Muslims – they will kill non-believers because the Koran says to do so.

    Although I am not making claims for what God did in the Old Testament, I know it was to protect and sustain a particular group of people – the Israelites. But I do know now, that we are to obey the law of the land to the point that it does not conflict with the Word of God, and this means not to kill.

    • Jeff Randall says:

      So Jesse, you failed to answer the question posed.

      If you believed that god was asking you to do something, such as killing your child as abraham was commanded to do, would you automatically do it?

      I am glad that there are limits to what you’d do for your faith, but what about a “direct order” from your god. Would you assume you were insane (as I would assume), or would you do as commanded?

      However, members of other faiths would. Like Muslims – they will kill non-believers because the Koran says to do so.

      Are you REALLY trying to claim that christians would not kill somebody over religious reasons?

  4. No I answered your question. What your question should have said is, “Are there limits to what you would do for your faith?” To that, I would answer yes. I am not saying that there have not been Christians who have “claimed” God told them to kill someone, but they are incorrect, because there actions do not line up with the words and instructions of Jesus.

    The problem you should be asking is, not what would people do if God would ask them, but why people aren’t doing what God already told them? If Christians were really following the commandments of Jesus, we would have seen such a shift in society of love, acceptance, and compassion. However, what we do see is judgementalism, condemnation, and division. The question for most claimed Christians is not are there limits, but, is there any faith at all?

  5. Jeff Randall says:

    No, again you answered your own question, and not the one I asked…

    Telling me I should have asked a different question, and then answering that one, does not answer the question that I asked.

    So I’ll ask again:
    Is there something, anything actually, that under some circumstance you would NOT do it, if asked by “god”?

    As for god telling people to do things, how is one to know if it’s truly god or not?
    Is it possible for an insane person to do good things?
    Is it possible for somebody with good intentions to do bad things?
    How does one tell the difference between god telling somebody what to do, and mental illness affecting them?

  6. For the third time I will answer – yes. I would not kill my own daughter, or anyone else for that matter.

    • Jeff Randall says:

      Thank you… You kept saying you would not do it for your religion. This time you seem to be saying you would not do it for god. There is a distinct and important difference between those two.

      So, if there are some things you would not do, even if asked by god
      And if it’s possible for people to do good things for bad reasons (such as mental illness)
      And if it’s possible for people to do bad things with good intentions

      How do you know when god has spoken to somebody? What criteria can you use to tell the difference?

      • Debbie says:

        Perhaps Hosea, chapters 1, 2 & 3 might be of help to both of you in answering that question.

  7. John Vreeland says:

    The fact that Abraham failed to say “no” when so ordered marks him and his followers as the true demons of the world: ignorant, obedient, and utterly amoral. That his god approved of his failure marks him as something that must be opposed by civilized people.

  8. @ John – The Old Testament operated on a sacrificial system. The firstborn son of donkeys and lambs had to either be sacrificed or redeemed. A firstborn son also had to have a lamb to redeem it. It was not a foreign concept to Abraham that the firstborn had to be sacrificed or redeemed. For Abraham, the thought was, if my son is sacrificed, the rest of my offspring will all be sanctified. Secondly, his son was a picture of Jesus Christ, and the sacrifice that God offered so that we could be redeemed.

    You think this is evil and cruel but yet our society kills as many babies a day in abortion equal to the number of people that die everyday for any other reason. Why do you let this continue to happen?

    • Jeff Randall says:

      Well if you want to get into abortion, more than 1/3rd of all pregnancies end in spontaneous miscarriage. If you subscribe to god having a hand in human affairs, he’s the biggest mass murder of all time, by orders of magnitude…

      And that doesn’t even mention the flood, Sodom and Gomorrah, slaughtering of the children of Egypt, natural disasters, or the 2,476,633 people god killed in the bible where specific numbers were given.

  9. The criteria that we use is the Word of God. God has already spoken and told us as Christians what to do. I am not saying that God doesn’t still speak, but that we don’t need any more that what he has already said. If we would love, serve, encourage, comfort, give to the poor, and do all the other things he has already said in his word, then he wouldn’t need to say anything.

    • Jeff Randall says:

      But if you assume he does still speak to people (even if not as often as he once did), how can somebody objectively tell the difference between god speaking, and insanity?

      Clearly if somebody told you that Elvis told them to give money to the poor, you’d commend the deed, but realize they are in serious need of mental help. But if somebody does the same act and claims god told them, is there any objective way to tell the difference between “the real thing” and insanity?

      • Debbie says:

        When we have an indepth close relationship with God, we get to know him and his character. He speaks to us via His spirit (Holy Spirit) within us to our spirit, which is seperate from our soul and mind. God does not communicate to us through our minds or souls, only to our spirits…He communicates spirit to spirit only. Therefore, anything entering the mind first and not the spirit normally comes from the external world and perhaps this could explain the insanity. We know it’s God when we maintain that relationship with him at the spiritual level because he convicts us in our spirit…..even if it’s througjh someone or something…..This is why it’s so important that we go to Him in prayer on EVERYTHING!!!!!

  10. Justin says:

    Comparisons to Abraham aren’t entirely valid with the entirety of the context. As usual, I see something like Abraham’s story plucked out of context to twist into some form of false dilemma.

    At the time Abraham was commanded to sacrifice Isaac, a couple of events had already occurred.

    1) Abraham had his son Ishmael by a midwife, who Sarah wanted Abraham to send away. Abraham knew that sending Ishmael into the desert would be a death sentence. Only after God promised to watch over Ishmael did Abraham send them away.

    2) God had already promised to make Isaac and his descendents into a great nation.

    Now, having this in mind, it seems that if God were to keep his earlier promise to Abraham, then Abraham would have had some sense that God was testing him. Ergo he said “the Lord will provide the sacrifice”.

    • Jeff Randall says:

      So then Abraham should not be seen as a man of faith. He should be seen as a cheater who knew in advance, and tried to “play” god?
      Interesting take…

      Now, how about the question:
      Is there something, anything actually, that under some circumstance you would NOT do it, if asked by “god”?

  11. christian says:

    You can ask a number of questions..not just the dad thing..you could ask if God told you to murder someone would you..If God told you to commit adultery would you..If God told you to wipe out mongolia would you.
    insert favortite question here..

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