agnosticism, faith, God, Non-Believers, religion, wrathful God
I ran into a blog a few days ago, one that you can link to by following the sidebar link, or by following this one.
The title of the post was “Losing my religion. Why I recently walked away from Christianity.” I read the post which listed twenty reasons why the poster, a “BEattitude” decided that he was no longer a believer. It is still a bit unclear to me whether he is a non-believer in God or just in the Christian version. The title doesn’t make this clear, since losing a religion doesn’t mean you lose God. Plenty of people believe in God yet find organized religion not to their liking.
In any case, I felt a pang of sadness as I read down the list, and realized that most of the objections he had were easily explained or were the result of that constant thorn in the side of Christianity, fundamentalism. It’s distortions lead all sorts of people to finally declare that they can no longer adhere to such a faith that seems so meanly alien to present sensibilities of justice, compassion and fairness.
I’ve been keeping a careful watch over the site, and alas it seems like so many other “atheist” tracts, to be largely a game of “let’s make fun of what we once believed by pulling sentences out of the bible that are bloody ugly and not how we think humans should conduct themselves today.” I was hoping for a thoughtful discourse on life without God, and how one makes sense of one’s existence in a Godless world.
I have posted a few comments, trying to alert the writer that he was way off the mark in how he understood the bible, but alas all I’ve done is to manage to make him think I am arrogant and “superior” to him. He has as it were, stopped his ears, and actually, I can’t blame him. I guess I responded a bit like a bull in a china shop, so appalling did I find the analysis of some of his commenters and himself.
In any event, I have determined that it is still worthwhile here, to discuss his 20 reasons and see if we can learn anything from the exercise. the BEattitude calls this a condensed list, but I have not seen reference to any other, so we will make do with what he has given us. The link at the top is to the entire list, and you may want to go and read it for yourself.
God is wrathful, jealous, hateful, and kills nations of people like it is a bodily function. He is certainly not just or “holy” in nature.
I presume this results from a reading of the Old Testament. There seems little of this in the New Testament as far as I can see. In fact, that fact has prompted some to say, and even some forms of Christianity to argue that the God of the OT and that of the NT are not the same God. That certainly was the position of the Gnostics, an early 1st century Christian group.
I will not opt for avoiding the issue posed, with some of the usual responses. Fundamentalists are used to “explaining” things often times by saying that we can’t know God’s reasons for things. These answers are neither satisfying nor intellectually honest I think. They are excuses for having no real answer.
I certainly recall reading the bible for the first time at the behest of a friend of mine. She actually gave me a bible. I read it, and was frankly appalled. I thought this God was bloodthirsty, and simply unjust in every way. It kept in in the agnostic field for another fifteen years or more. If this was God, well, keep him, I had no interest in him.
That of course was above and beyond the issues of the utter lack of scientific accuracy exhibited on Genesis. That was plenty enough problem for me right there. But that is I think the 20th reason, and we will get to it in due time.
What I discerned over time, and with plenty of study, and the help of some extraordinary Catholic theologians and biblical experts, who nurtured me and opened a new world of understanding for me, was that the bible is the work of human beings.
More importantly it is the history of how those human beings, over more than one thousand years, developed a concept of one God, a God that was in some sense more just than the various Gods that surrounded them, and one that responded to them, in ways that were sensible and rational.
It is the history of how a people interacted with God, how they viewed him, how they viewed themselves, how they struggled with all the vicissitudes of life and their own sinful behaviors. It is the story of how they used this God to fashion a people apart from the rest, and how through this God they developed a viable society which has endured to this day.
They most assuredly did not, for the most part, know they were “using” God to justify their laws and their conquests, but surely they were. They were after all primitive people. They saw sinfulness and saw natural disasters and conflated the two into God’s wrath upon them for being unfaithful. They had bad rulers and were conquered and concluded that they had “failed” God and were being punished.
Is it any wonder then, that they came to warn their own people that further transgressions, whatever they might be, would return that God of wrath to their doors. I have only to go to yesterday to see how that is and can be misused today.
Yesterday on a forum discussion on the death of Dr. George Tiller, one fine poster said that “God was not against killing, since he instituted the passover.” That is, I would suggest one of the boldest misuses of text as I have ever seen to justify acts of vigilante murder.
Is it any wonder then, that in those primitive times, the religious leaders of the small band of Hebrews invoked God as the one who commanded that every animal, child, and man be slain, and the village burned to the ground, not a thing to be taken for use? Is it any wonder than whatever was seen as a pagan practice was to be done the opposite by this small bedouin tribe? They were forging a people and the only way to do this was to separate themselves, not intermarry, not interact at all.
And of course what better way to convince than to claim that God demanded it? It is unfair to heap this onto God, it was but a completely natural conclusion reached by the people of the land. It was natural, and was the way other primitive societies also saw the world working. They just substituted Magog and Baal.
The conclusion. Don’t define God by how people did 3,000 years ago. We’ve progressed a good deal since then.