Some Thoughts About The Kindly Shopkeeper

“יד וְכִי-תִמְכְּרוּ מִמְכָּר לַעֲמִיתֶךָ, אוֹ קָנֹה מִיַּד עֲמִיתֶךָ--אַל-תּוֹנוּ, אִישׁ אֶת-אָחִיו.”
“And if thou sell ought unto thy neighbour, or buyest ought of thy neighbour's hand, ye shall not oppresse one another.”

—Leviticus 25:14, The Bible, King James Version

The first customer

Once upon a time there was a village shop. It was established and run by two brothers, Gordon and Stan. Gordon was a kindly shopkeeper, who cared for his customers. Stan was a selfish, cynical shopkeeper, who did not care for his customers unless he got something in return. The village shop was mostly frequented by little old ladies. The shop had a self-checkout till, so Gordon and Stan spent most of their time on general store management.

One day, Patty came in to the shop. Patty was always very obsequious to Gordon and Stan. “Oh hello, you handsome fellows!”, she called out as she walked in. “I enjoyed those fish you recommended the other day: delicious.” Gordon and Stan both smiled happily and welcomed her.

There was a corner of the shop where a popular product was placed on a high shelf. Patty reached up, but she was too short, and couldn't get it. “Gordon, Stan,” she called, “could you help me get this down?” Stan and Gordon both hurried over, and between them they picked the product off the shelf and gave it to Patty. “Thank you Gordon and Stan,” she cried out cheerfully, “You're ever so kind!”

After Patty had paid and left, Gordon and Stan stood together for a moment. “I'm glad we could help her,” said Gordon. “Yes,” said Stan, “she is always so appreciative and friendly.” Gordon smiled. The two brothers went back to work. Evening went, and morning came.

The second customer

The next day, Lotte came into the shop. Lotte was always polite to Gordon and Stan, but no more than that. She nodded briefly at them as she walked in. Gordon smiled at her and said hello, while Stan merely returned her brief nod.

Lotte went to the corner with the popular product placed on a high shelf. She reached up, but she was too short, and couldn't get it. “Gordon, Stan,” she called, “could you help me get this down?” Gordon hurried over, followed by Stan at a less enthusiastic pace, and between them they picked the product off the shelf and gave it to Lotte. “Thanks,” she said briefly.

After Lotte had paid and left, Gordon and Stan stood together for a moment. “I'm glad we could help her,” said Gordon. “I suppose so,” said Stan, “but I didn't feel as though she was appreciative enough of our help.” “Does it matter?” asked Gordon. “She needed our help, so we gave it.” The two brothers went back to work. Evening went, and morning came.

The third customer

The next day, Dot came into the shop. Dot had previously been friendly to Gordon and Stan, but she was now suffering from sensory loss. She didn't acknowledge the brothers as she walked in. Gordon smiled sadly at her, and called out hello anyway, while Stan ignored her dismissively.

Dot went to the corner with the popular product placed on a high shelf. She reached up, but she was too short, and couldn't get it. “I wish Gordon and Stan were here to help me!” she cried in frustration. Gordon hurried over, followed by Stan at a less enthusiastic pace, and between them they picked the product off the shelf and gave it to Dot. “You are here after all!” she said happily. “Thank you!”

After Dot had paid and left, Gordon and Stan stood together for a moment. “I'm glad we could help her,” said Gordon. “I suppose so,” said Stan. “I'm glad she finally acknowledged us.” “Does it matter?” asked Gordon. “She needed our help, so we gave it.” The two brothers went back to work. Evening went, and morning came.

The fourth customer

The next day, Chrissy came into the shop. Like Dot, Chrissy had previously been friendly to Gordon and Stan, but she was now suffering from sensory loss, and depression as well. She didn't acknowledge the brothers as she walked in. Gordon smiled sadly at her, and called out hello anyway, while Stan ignored her dismissively.

Chrissy went to the corner with the popular product placed on a high shelf. She reached up, but she was too short, and couldn't get it. “I wish Gordon and Stan were here to help me!” she cried in frustration. Gordon hurried over, followed by Stan at a less enthusiastic pace, and between them they picked the product off the shelf and gave it to Chrissy. “It fell down from the shelf, eh?” she said morosely. “Well, that's something at least.”

After Chrissy had paid and left, Gordon and Stan stood together for a moment. “I'm glad we could help her,” said Gordon. “I'm not,” said Stan. “She didn't even realise we'd helped her.” “Does it matter?” asked Gordon. “She needed our help, so we gave it.” The two brothers went back to work. Evening went, and morning came.

The fifth customer

The next day, Missie came into the shop. Missie was used to shopping in another store in the village, and had a touch of dementia. “Oh hello, Al, you handsome fellow!” she called out as she walked in. “I enjoyed those croissants you recommended the other day: delicious.” Gordon smiled and welcomed her, while Stan ignored her dismissively.

Missie went to the corner with the popular product placed on a high shelf. She reached up, but she was too short, and couldn't get it. “Al,” she called, “could you help me get this down?”. Gordon hurried over, but Stan stayed where he was and refused to help. Gordon picked the product off the shelf and gave it to Missie. “Thank you Al,” she cried out cheerfully, “You're ever so kind!”

After Missie had paid and left, Gordon and Stan stood together for a moment. “I'm glad we could help her,” said Gordon. “I'm not,” said Stan. “She called us by the wrong name. It was disrespectful, and now all of the credit will go to Al, our competitor.” “Does it matter?” asked Gordon. “She needed our help, so we gave it.” The two brothers went back to work. Evening went, and morning came.

The sixth customer

The next day, Cindy came into the shop. Cindy had dementia, and had imagined a shopkeeper who didn't even exist. “Oh hello, Ron, you handsome fellow!” she called out as she walked in. “I enjoyed those donuts you recommended the other day: delicious.” Gordon smiled and welcomed her, while Stan ignored her dismissively.

Cindy went to the corner with the popular product placed on a high shelf. She reached up, but she was too short, and couldn't get it. “Ron,” she called, “could you help me get this down?”. Gordon hurried over, but Stan stayed where he was and refused to help. Gordon picked the product off the shelf and gave it to Missie. “Thank you Ron,” she cried out cheerfully, “You're ever so kind!”

After Cindy had paid and left, Gordon and Stan stood together for a moment. “I'm glad we could help her,” said Gordon. “I'm not,” said Stan. “She called us by the wrong name. It was disrespectful, and now all of the credit will go to someone who doesn't even exist.” “Does it matter?” asked Gordon. “She needed our help, so we gave it.” The two brothers went back to work. Evening went, and morning came.

The seventh customer

The next day, Agnes came into the shop. Agnes was new in the village, and another sensory loss sufferer. “I wonder if this shop has a shopkeeper?” she wondered aloud as she walked in, but did not notice the brothers. Gordon smiled at her and called out hello, while Stan ignored her dismissively.

Agnes went to the corner with the popular product placed on a high shelf. She reached up, but she was too short, and couldn't get it. “I wish this store had a shopkeeper!” she cried in frustration. Gordon hurried over, but Stan stayed where he was and refused to help. Gordon picked the product off the shelf and gave it to Agnes. “I wonder if this fell from the shelf, or whether there is a shopkeeper here,” she said thoughtfully. “If there is a shopkeeper there, thank you, I suppose.”

After Agnes had paid and left, Gordon and Stan stood together for a moment. “I'm glad we could help her,” said Gordon. “I'm not,” said Stan. “She didn't even really think we'd helped her.” “Does it matter?” asked Gordon. “She needed our help, so we gave it.” The two brothers went back to work. Evening went, and morning came.

The eighth customer

The next day, Ethel came into the shop. Ethel was new in the village, and another sensory loss sufferer. “Another store without a shopkeeper!” she cried out angrily as she walked in, not noticing the brothers. Gordon smiled at her and called out hello, but Stan threw pieces of fruit in her direction. “And the store is so badly laid out that there are items falling on me!” she grumbled.

Ethel went to the corner with the popular product placed on a high shelf. She reached up, but she was too short, and couldn't get it. “What a worthless store,” she cried in frustration, “to be without a shopkeeper to help the customers!”. Gordon hurried over, but Stan stayed where he was and refused to help. Gordon picked the product off the shelf and gave it to Ethel. “I'm lucky this fell off its shelf,” she complained. “With no shopkeeper around to help, I have to take all the luck I can get.” At this, Stan leapt up and tried to knock the item out of Ethel's hands; Gordon had to restrain him.

After Ethel had paid and left, Gordon and Stan stood together for a moment. “I'm glad we could help her,” said Gordon. “I'm not,” said Stan. “She didn't even realise we'd helped her, and was rude about the very concept of our job.” “Does it matter?” asked Gordon. “She needed our help, so we gave it.” And the two brothers went back to work, and life in the village rolled on as it always did.

Conclusions

If it makes sense to describe God [that is, a GCT] as “good”—indeed, infinitely and absolutely so—then God ought to behave at least in some conformity to what we understand by the word ‘good’. If God does not behave so, then it is meaingless to describe God as “good”. All religions tell their followers that they should follow the correct rituals and adore God fully in order to receive his blessings. Yet a good God should help all humans, regardless of their belief in God or not, and even regardless of whether we have directly asked for help or not. Faced with an old lady dying in agony of cancer, an omnipotent God/Gordon would not use weasel words about respecting her freedom to choose to die of cancer, or say that her (or her ancestors') misdemeanours justify her suffering, or allow Satan/Stan to cause her pain.

It is easy for God/Gordon to be kind to Patty, full as she is of Piety and appreciation for the ichthys. It is even relatively easy to be kind to an ordinary member of the Laity like Lotte, or Dot, full of understandable Doubt. It is with Crisis-filled Chrissy that God/Gordon's love truly starts to be tested. A loving deity would answer with Gordon, “She needed our help, so we gave it”; the hypothesised god of the real world instead behaves like Satan/Stan and refuses to help. This continues with adherents of other religions, like Missie the Muslim, with her prayers to Allah/Al and his crescents/croissants; and followers of nonsense cults like Cindy the Scientologist, with her veneration of L Ron Hubbard and his dianetics/donuts. The principle even holds at its most extreme for Agnes the Agnostic and Ethel the Atheist: not believing in him would not for a moment dissuade God/Gordon from helping the ladies in every way he could.

An omnipotent God/Gordon would help any of these women: they need his help, so he would give it. This does not happen in the real world, and so the example of the kindly shopkeeper, to which God fails to live up, shows that there is no all-good, all-powerful worldkeeper watching over us, an original formulation of the Problem of Evil. Whether the world is ruled by a petty, vindictive god or by no god at all is left for the reader to decide for themself.


sum θoətiz abaʊt ðə kaindlii ʃop-kiipə [blank]

“יד וְכִי-תִמְכְּרוּ מִמְכָּר לַעֲמִיתֶךָ, אוֹ קָנֹה מִיַּד עֲמִיתֶךָ--אַל-תּוֹנוּ, אִישׁ אֶת-אָחִיו.”
“And if thou sell ought unto thy neighbour, or buyest ought of thy neighbour's hand, ye shall not oppresse one another.”
“and if ðii sel ʊət untʊʊ ðiis neibər, oə baiy ʊət ov ðiis neibər-iis hand, kom ðii ʃal not opres um anuðə.”
—levitikəs 25:14, ðə baibəl, kiŋ jeimz vuəʒən

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