I recently was watching a talk given by an atheist student where the speaker referred to God as a “celestial dictator.” In fact, this was essentially the only way he referred to God. I thought it was an interesting characterization. Clearly, the depiction of God as a “dictator” was meant as a pejorative term.
The first question this claim brought to mind was the difference between a dictator and any other kind of leader. After all, every world leader has a set of laws and policies he or she would wish to implement. These laws and policies would constrict the behavior of their constituents. As a new election approaches, we will vote for an elected leader to govern our country. Regardless of who is elected, they will have a set of goals they wish to accomplish while in office, including a list of behaviors they want us, the citizens, to adopt. In interviews, many of this year’s candidates have already talked about new laws and policies they would like to pursue. For example, in an effort to protect the environment, some have suggested bans on the use of plastic straws, or fracking, or other behaviors they believe will ultimately impact global climate change. The bottom line is this: all leaders have goals they want to accomplish and rules about behavior which they wish to put in place to accomplish these goals.
There seems to be something in the human heart that resists the notion of rules and limitations, however. We are rebellious creatures who treasure our freedom to act as we desire. The existence of a God who sets laws and boundaries can be “off-putting.”
At the same time, we recognize the importance of laws and policies. While we may disagree about which laws should be enacted, we all have a set of laws we would want to see the government pursue and enforce. If any of us were given the chance to be President, we would inevitably have some set of behaviors we would prefer and a set of laws and policies we would attempt to advance. The fact we are upset that God would also have similar desires is ultimately a bit ironic.
When any of us complains that God expects certain behaviors from us, aren’t we simultaneously expecting Him to behave in a certain way? To call God a “dictator” requires us to dictate God’s behavior (to require God to behave just as we prefer). Click To Tweet
The atheist student also had a set of laws, policies and behaviors he expected from God. He was just as quick to constrain God as he believed God was to constrain him. To call God a “dictator” requires us to dictate God’s behavior (to require God to behave just as we prefer).
It is natural for us to resist the laws God has given us. Old and New Testament writers described this inherent rebellion. The Apostle Paul quoted King David (from Psalm 14:1-3) when he wrote:
…as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” (Romans 3:10-12)
If you’re like me, you also struggle to be obedient to God. But let’s have some humility and self-awareness in our critiques of God. We all have a set of rules, a concept of right and wrong which we would apply to others. Don’t be surprised that God, the true, transcendent source of all moral wisdom, would have the same for us.
Detective Jimmy Wallace (J. Warner’s son) is a Police Investigator in Los Angeles County, a Christian Case Maker, host of the Incarnate Investigation Podcast and Incarnate Investigation Video Series (featured at ColdCaseChristianity.com).
February 15, 2021 at 3:06 pm
If a person does not believe in the existence of God, how does that person determine God to be a celestial dictator?
September 16, 2021 at 3:28 pm
Christopher Hitchens said this. He was a very popular atheist from England
May 5, 2021 at 10:08 pm
As Douglas Wilson was quoted when debating Christopher Hitchens,
“There are two tenets of atheism.
One, there is no God.
Two, I hate him.”
May 31, 2021 at 8:12 am
Certain comments are certainly biased. The atheist makes the comments on the assumption that others believe in God and are valid comments, regardless of the atheist belief in the existence of God.
The question was never really answered by Mr Wallace. Their are a number of valid comments, but again it does not directly address the question.
In a dictatorship, there are laws which are overseen by the dictator. In Acts 5 after Jesus has ascended and died for one’s sins, two followers are struck dead for not being honest about their contributions to the assembly. Supposedly by God. Is this not the actions of a supreme ruler?
I would argue that the best type of government is a dictatorship with a perfect dictator. The generalization by Randall/Wilson quote is just that. There are many atheist who don’t hate the idea that others believe in God, or the “imaginary” God they believe in. Is the way to heaven is to believe like you? That sounds cultic, doesn’t it? Be honest.
Personally, I think it’s sadistic to say believe in me or I (with all authority in the universe) will make you live in hell for eternity. Jesus said “I am the way, the truth and the life, no man comes to the Father but by me”. The objective could be said, is to have access to the Father. This is the same Father that said to the children of Israel that I have given you a promised land. Now all you need to do is kill every man, woman, child and it’s yours.
Is that really a Father you want to be close to? If that is all true (and we will assume it is) is that not dictatorship?
One last comment, there is a great difference between an atheist and agnostic. The latter doesn’t either claim or disclaim there is a God. They just don’t know/convinced either way. Shall they be condemned to hell for eternity?
Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” Be a believer, that’s great, just don’t condemn those who are not and perhaps they will not condemn or demean you.
November 27, 2021 at 5:43 pm
Your argument fails to address the elephant of difference in the room between God vs any human leader past or present: Human leaders do not hold ultimate power. Even the most powerful of human leaders are capable of having their power challenged and particularly in today’s world, dominated by republics, leaders must court the consent of the governed to some degree in order to implement their plans. God does not suffer this handicap, so your analogy is completely inappropriate.
The Christian cosmology is not a republic. It’s God’s universe and we’re just living in it. That’s the problem the atheist is highlighting when calling God a dictator. We have ZERO say in how this Universe is run, despite being the ones most affected by the laws that govern it. None of us even consented to being created in the first place. What’s more, there is no counter to God’s authority. There is no legislative assembly or judicial court which we mere mortals can expect to restrain God’s (ab)use of his power.
You act like only one party (humanity) in this analogy has an obligation to respect the other party’s wishes (God’s). Why do God’s wishes take supremacy? Why is there no compromise? Because He is the Creator? So what? Why should that grant him absolute moral authority? It doesn’t. God’s wishes take supremacy because He has the power to enforce them and no one has the power to oppose him. His authority comes from his power and his power alone. It’s Might Makes Right.
March 22, 2022 at 10:21 pm
So why challenge China’s leader ?!? In fact China is under a one party system with rules and laws and the president is only the head of the party.