Monday, September 19, 2011

My Problem With God

I don't have a problem with the idea of God.  I have a problem with taking the God of the Bible literally.

Way back in the early days of humanity, God was necessary to explain things like our origin, why the stars hung in the heavens, why there were two different sexes (one with boobs and one with moobs when they ate too much), why an apple fell from a tree on some dude's head, and much more that couldn't be explained.

Little by little, we have removed the need for God in most of those explanations of life.  We know why the stars move and what moves with them, even how to wish upon them.  We have a pretty good explanation of how they got there.  We understand gravity.  We understand how the sexes appear in the formation of the human race in the womb.  We have a decent explanation of our origins. 

As society, specifically the human race, has progressed, we have learned much.  Knowledge has increased and the ability to discover more knowledge is continuing to evolve.  God has been reduced to matter to only three basic ideas, in my view:

First, the origin of the human race.  Did God create the world?  Did it evolve?  Did God help the process of evolution along?

Evolution is constantly evolving and growing.  We are consistently seeing new discoveries and explanations of the science over the wires.  Problems with the idea are explained away using logic, philosophy, sarcasm, and even bitter rhetoric.  On the other side of the "debate", creationism, or the disingenuously named, intelligent design paradigm, uses reasoning, logic, and philosophy to try to prove that God did the job.  Creationism's main focus seems to be to prove that evolution cannot have happened, but the science seems to be against it.

In my view, there is not yet a preponderance of evidence - like with gravity where I can drop a hammer and hit my toe, wherein I discover two laws - the law of gravity and the law of pain (not to mention the art of blue streak issuance).  But, when there is, God will be reduced to the last two areas of life where he is needed.

Second, the morality of man.  Where does man get their laws of rightness from?  Is it from God?  The Bible states that God's law is written on our hearts.  But what law is that?  The law of stoning children when they give you the evil eye?  The law of killing hundreds upon hundreds of animals in a single day to appease the vengeful anger of a jealous supreme being?  Or, the law of love?  Doing what is right to your fellow man.  Caring for others.  Not killing one another.  Not raping another person without their permission.  Realizing that child prostitution is wrong.

But, does the human race really need their morality from God?  The argument for this type of morality is that it is absolute while everything else is relative.  So, put two people together and ask them a question on spanking.  Do you think their answers will come anywhere close to an absolute law?  Say they both base their answers on the Bible.  There is still no guarantee that there will be a consensus.

I posit that mankind CAN and does inherit morality from others that came before.  Many people who have no belief in God or any deity for that matter are much gooder than myself.  If there was a heaven for gooderness, they would be at the top of the heap and I would be as small as their left pinky toe in comparison.  People do not need God to be good people.  Moral people.  Believe me when I say that some of the most horrible people I have ever encountered in life are those that claim to get their morality from God himself.

So, God is now even unnecessary for morality, as well.

Third, the afterlife.  We have no idea what the afterlife, if any, will be.  Nobody has been there and back to tell us what to expect.  Sure, we have things like "23 Minutes in Hell", and "60 Minutes in Heaven", and "Where I Sent My Mother-In-Law", but those can be chalked up to fanciful monetary ventures.  We have ideas of what to expect from worldwide literature.  Will we be reincarnated?  Will we end up in a dungeon beneath the earth?  Torment for eternity?  Purgatory?  Heaven?  What is heaven?

I can't say much about this idea because all of it is, and has to be, conjecture.  We just don't know.  Only God, whomever he is, can know.

Which leads me to the god of the Bible.

According to the Bible, God created this earth so that man could be made in his image.  Apparently, he wanted man to worship him.  After all, he is a jealous God and cares only for his own worship, and yet loves mankind, even though he created hell for most of mankind to burn forever, though he wants none to perish in it, even though he bothered to create it to destroy naughty peeps in the first place.  He designed the creation to be good and yet knew that man was going to sin, so planted a magical tree that was forbidden.  Man ate the fruit, as he knew man would and then, he threw them out of the garden so they wouldn't eat the eternal life tree - that he himself planted.

Then, thousands of years of suffering, that he designed into his creation, passed by with nary a sign of lasting redemption.  Redemption had to be done on an annual basis - though only for a few select individuals - by killing animals and spilling their blood for him.  This gory being then allowed his only son to die for all mankind, who needs to be washed in the blood of Christ to be perfect for God. 

So, we now are supposed to love this man, Jesus, who separates us from the vengeful, jealous, wrath of God, only for such a time as we are on this earth.  We are to believe on him, just so that we can have a path to God's heaven, that he created for only a select few, so that we can then be reunited with this vengeful, jealous, being - for eternity.  If we don't do this, we must suffer an eternal death, away from the vengeful, jealous, wrathful, supreme being, where he wanted us to be anyway, being that he is omniscient.

So, can THAT god be the one in the afterlife?

I sure hope not.

If there is a God, I hope the canonical consortium of ancient texts got it wrong.

*****

I apologize if I have alienated some of my thirteen readers, but I don't want to sugarcoat my thoughts.  I have always been one to conform to the thinking of those that I desire to love me.  I would rather be honest in my assessment of life and its mysteries, if mysteries are what they are.

Finally, the argument of "How dare you question God's intentions!?  Surely you know that his ways are not our ways!!" is much too convenient for me to take it seriously.  I will not go through life, consistently numbing my mind to the irreconcilable, paradoxical nature of the orthodox Christian god.  It is just too improbable.

30 comments:

  1. I.C., I can't help but to see it in a very similar way as you. On a more personal note, would you think it'd just be me and my take on things, that would cause people to generally give me the psychoanalysis of "being bitter", when it comes to my very similar view of God? And if "bitterness" is a legitimate explanation, rather than merely a mind-numbingly marginalizing ploy, then who wouldn't be bitter? If bitterness is merely an attitude that allows me to see reality in such a way as to refute all excuses for injustice, then it's a necessarily good trait, and we can move on with the discussion, already.

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  2. Love it. :-)

    And you're right, too many people say "you have no business questioning God." Really? Why not? How do we figure things out without asking questions? If there is a God, then he created our brains too! Does he not want us to use them? Finally, can he not stand up for himself?

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  3. Joe, you should look up Wayne Jacobsen. Wayne suggests that Jesus didn't die to appease God's wrath, but rather to conquer sin and shame (a totally different perspective) and remove the barrier between us and God.

    I personally believe that God is all-loving, and isn't just out there waiting for us to mess up so that He can torture us forever and ever. I don't totally understand the Bible, but I do know that Jesus told us of God's love, and a loving God is worth pursuing. While I don't have all the answers, I have found love, and it is a very good thing.

    Blessings to you!

    Ben

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  4. God is not subject to his creations understanding

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    1. If God cannot be bothered or expected to make Himself clear to His creation, then neither can His creation be faulted for the lack of evidence to induce belief in said god.

      It is possibly true that God shouldn't be expected to "prove" himself; but if so, then He can hold only Himself to blame when we don't see a reason to believe in what are, for all intents and purposes then, just fairy tales.

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    2. Never a better two sentences have been written - today. Until these two I just wrote.

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  5. What is the purpose of a godless moral law? Is it for more than mere survival of the human race? What is the point of morality in the first place? Why should I care about anyone or anything besides myself and what makes me happy? If, one day, I get a good feeling by lifting boxes for an old woman with ehart problems, but if, the next day, I am in a hurry and I let her fend for herself even though she will probably have a heart attack, am I less moral than I was the day before? If so, is that a problem?

    These are serious questions. I am not throwing something out on a hypothetical philosophical fancy. I am not challenging your perspective, I am simply trying to understand it deeper.

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    1. To understand the origins of morality requires a belief and understanding of the way humans have evolved as a species. Not just humans however; animals too exhibit "moral" ways of reasoning and behaving. As was hinted at above, morality is a byproduct of decisions (and their outcomes) made by our ancestors that influenced the way we evolved, and thus shape our innate way of thinking and behaving.

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  6. Oh, I just remembered IC, I've also been meaning to ask you, what is your opinion on the Trinity? Do you believe in the oneness yet distinctness of the three persons? Or do you believe that there is simply God and all else is not God? Or something different?

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  7. I left Christianity when I came undeniably to the conclusions that the God as I'd been taught him (and I'd been taught that this was the only Truly Christian understanding of him) was malicious, capricious, malevolent and, if it were another human we were speaking of, downright evil. Even if he did exist, I damn sure wasn't going to pretend he was worthy of worship and adoration. I'd rather go to hell with integrity than go to heaven for hypocrisy.

    But 20+ years of knocking around other religions and spiritual traditions made me wonder if what I knew of Christianity was really all there was. How could a religion of that Christian God have inspired the two (or three, if you count ancient Judaism) thousand years of ever increasing numbers of followers?

    So I started reading about the history of theology and--lo and behold--this very Evangelical and fundamentalist perspective of How It All Works is quite new. Less than a thousand years before it became more than a fringe doctrine, less than 500 since it became widespread, only about 100 since it became the definitive Christianity for Americans (and American religious colonization of third world countries). Even now, this understanding of God is not the dominant theology of global Christianity, no matter what the noisy Evangelical mouthpieces make it seem like.

    Wow, what a huge--and I mean REALLY HUGE, MINDBLOWING, LIFE-ALTERING--revelation that was for me to realize. God isn't the problem, even Christianity isn't the problem. Angry, hell-bent, power-mongering, Christ-poseurs are the problem.

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  8. Muzach, I wouldn't spend too much time dwelling on the accusation of bitterness. The "people" you mention have probably noticed that you haven't made a rash decision in your quest for truth. And, being that rashness cannot be their charge against you, they must revert to their only explanation of a slow-burn removal from what they see as the only correct view of God. That slow-burn is what they call bitterness.

    Naturally, if you would step outside of yourself and remove the crutch of bitterness from your life, then you would obviously see it their way (sarcasm, of course).

    I think it would be quite revealing to you if you shrugged off the foolish accusation and flipped it around and asked them what they thought about the matter. I doubt you would get more than mere platitudes and hedging to guarantee that they don't step over the line of right and wrong, in their own view.

    Keep thinking, writing, and speaking out. Life is more interesting with you around.

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  9. Theo: "God is not subject to his creations understanding" = "How dare you question God's intentions!? Surely you know that his ways are not our ways!!"

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  10. And Theo, I have no interest in serving or believing in a god that makes it so we cannot understand who he is or what he is about and yet requires us to understand who he is and what he is about, or get thrown into hell for getting it wrong.

    Furthermore, with all the ideas of who God is (keeping in mind that many of these ideas hold claim to correct interpretation of the Bible), how can one say in one breath, "We cannot understand who God is" and in the other, "Accept Christ or go to hell."

    That's evil, pure evil.

    It's like expecting my daughter to put a fitted sheet on her bed, having never shown her how to do the job, and then when she weeps out of frustration, beating her to a bloody pulp, because she should have figured it out herself.

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  11. Benjamin, all good questions and serious to boot. But, as I look at the morality of all mankind, I see no clear distinction between those who follow the Christian God's rules and those who don't.

    With that in mind, any moral law is subject to people following it. If the moral law of the Christian God is perfect in every way and people, like the Israelites, couldn't follow it for even a few seconds, I find the idea of rejecting some or all of the law perfectly plausible.

    Now, I am not saying that I would reject the law, as you see it. After all, most people view murder as wrong. Did they get that from "God's law"? Maybe. But they didn't have to. I see it as a tradition passed down from generation to generation. We don't murder because great grandaddy was agin' it.

    I know what your comeback will be. The moral law cannot be rejected because it cannot be followed. But I suggest to you that it can.

    Take this scenario:

    A woman is freshly married and goes on her honeymoon. Not 24 hours from the "I do's", she ends up in the luxurious hotel with her husband. Dying to hop in the sack, he rips off her clothes and discovers that she has been wearing a padded bra for their whole dating tenure. He's a big boob man and is disgusted by the little boobs he now sees before him.

    Getting up quickly, he slaps her for her dishonesty and runs out of the hotel, filing for divorce the next day.

    Is this woman now screwed for life? According to the "law of God" as allegedly reiterated by Jesus Christ himself, she is. Marrying another man would be committing adultery, which is in violation to the 10 basic laws that cover all the others.

    If I were to give advice to this woman, I would never tell her what Jesus allegedly reiterated. Not in a million years. I would tell her to heal and then go get her a new man, probably letting her know that little boobs were my favorite.

    Is there a utopia? Of course not! Not even with God's law as the foundation. Can there be as much happiness with just as much misery if mankind decided all his morality for himself? I would propose that nothing would change. Or, possibly, when religion became less of an issue, and life here on earth became more valuable, life would potentially get better.

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  12. Benjamin, to your trinity question:

    Being that I don't have any clear evidence that anything claimed about Christ is true, I would have to say that I believe in God and the Holy Spirit.

    Since Christ allegedly said he would send us the Holy Spirit coupled with my above statement, I would say that I cannot believe in a Holy Spirit without proof. I see no proof. I do not reject the experiential (because that is all it is and can be) "proof" of others, or the choice to have faith in the idea.

    Thus, I am reduced to the logical and yet illogical idea of a God - a single being.

    I must also say the following:

    The Holy Spirit of Christianity is a very intriguing idea and I want to be very good friends with those that believe strongly in it. I find those that rely on the Holy Spirit, along with common sense and experience, for their guidance, to be much more well rounded and personable people than those that worship the Holy Canon.

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  13. Sandra. Please stop commenting on my blog. You are giving me too much to read and study.

    Hehe...

    I love you, kid. Your insight and thought process is priceless to me. Keep writing.

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  14. Yeah we both know what I'd say, but I'm more interested in really understanding what you are saying and what you are not saying...because all too often those who disagree make too many assumptions about what the other thinks that is simply unfair. And, we right off the opinions of those who disagree with us as 100% invalid without even trying to understand them. and frankly that infuriates me, as I'm sure it does you.

    That said, I'm not sure you answered this question: What is the purpose of moral law? Sure, don't fault the blushing bride...but should we not also refrain from faulting the disappointed groom? Why deny anyone anything they want, even it hurts someone else? Injustice? where does injustice come from and how is it valid, if not imposed by a supreme being (which, I grant, seems unjust itself...that's not the point though, my point is to discern the implications of your perspective).

    As far as the Trinity, sure thing. I gotcha. So then, you have proof of God?

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  15. Morality. Who says what will be what if one morality is adhered to over another. It can't be argued.

    Secondly: Proof of God? Um...no. And therein lies my remaining faith.

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  16. So you need proof to believe in Christ and the Holy Spirit, but you don't need proof to believe in God? Or, you do not believe in the former two, due to lack of evidence, and, you do believe in God, thought you have no evidence, but, this is a journey, and your are simply at a certain place in your journey/exploration and may move in any direction at any time as your exploration leads you?

    Am I close with the second version?

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  17. The second one is fairly close, if you make a distinction that I am not referring to the god of the Bible. And, I am convinced that life is a journey - not my current thinking alone being the journey.

    I am excited as to what will come of my life 20 - 40 years from now, wherever I end up.

    Keep reading. I look forward to fleshing out more later.

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  18. Excellent. Looking forward to it.

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  19. I have't read the theologian Benjamin mentioned, but I do agree that the substitutionary view of the atonement is false. There are other traditional views, which I investigated in the book Four Views of the Atonement, and still other less traditional (and to me more intellectually/spiritually satisfying) views. I don't believe in a God who needed to shed blood in order to forgive, but I believe in a God who would shed His own blood in order to convince a blood-thirsty race that He had indeed forgiven all.

    Please don't think that any one view of any doctrine is the "Christian" view, though I am sure you were taught just that in church. *sigh*
    Christianity has many contradictory ideas floating around it. Making sense of it is up to each individual. I have found the ideas that are most in harmony to my understanding of the love, wisdom, power and eternal nature of God and so I remain a Christian. But my faith looks nothing like I was told it had to look, that's for sure!

    For example, I don't believe in "the sovreignty of God" as meaning a God who micro-manages the universe. How boring if God just wrote a script and then we play it out, with no novelty or surprise to delight the Creator. I believe in the Open View of the future is far more true to scripture and more satisfying to my mind that traditional ideas about the power and foreknowledge of God. (See the book God of the Possible by Greg Boyd for a layman's read.) This includes reality as well, as evolution fits perfectly with the idea of a God who creates an open-ended world full of possibility, all the while hoping for the best possible outcome- a God who can and does intervene with course corrections when absolutely necessary worldwide and personally when we ask, but otherwise let's US decide the course of our lives.

    I don't believe in what Thomas Talbot calls the heresy of exclusion-the belief that redemption is only for people who believe the right doctrine and pray the right prayer. ( His book is The Inescapable Love of God.) I believe that Christ succeeds in "reconciling all things to himself, whether things in heaven or things on earth". Or as Rob Bell put it, Love Wins.

    This means that the good news is God's love and acceptance for all of us as evidenced in the life, death and resurrection of Christ. This means that God's will is for believers to live the Jesus life of love and share the good news that God is "no longer counting men's trespasses against them" (if He ever was)and has "reconciled us to Himself" in Christ. This has been done. It is finished, as Jesus said. Our job is not to convert people to our religion, but to show them that God loves and accepts them.

    I believe that the place where the goats were sent in Jesus' parable, and the place the rich ruler was tormented in the story of Lazarus the beggar are metaphorical, in that those who don't get the Love Imperative yet will experience the disapproval of God and it will burn and cause deep remorse (weeping and gnashing of teeth) but I do NOT believe that state is eternal.

    Because, as the Bible plainly states, "God is not willing that any should perish", and what God wants, He has the intelligence, love and time to accomplish.

    I believe my Christianity is far closer to the heart of Jesus, the teachings of Jesus and the God I have personally experienced, than anything Edwards, Calvin or even Luther proposed. It is Jesus I pursue, not Christianity, because He first loved me. Christianity, not so much.

    I hope you find the joy I know in my faith, and wherever you find that joy, that is the right place for you to be. Even if that winds up atheism. God is big enough to handle honest disagreement, and I am sure applauds the heart of integrity and love regardless of the conclusions one reached about his existence. =)

    Peace and good will, SS

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  20. Shadowspring. You are awesome!

    I love how you spend the time to be thorough in your responses. They are so enlightening.

    I will put everything you wrote in my pipe and smoke it.

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  21. Shadowspring, I want more than anything to believe exactly what you said. Maybe someday I can.

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  22. I was just surfing through - fascinating blog. I am a Christian, but can see how you would come to those conclusions. And absolutely, as Shadowspring said, God is big enough to take those questions.

    I can remember sorting through the books of the Bible as a kid and thinking how far out and crazy it all sounded.

    I nearly lost my faith in the middle of witnessing one time, because as I heard myself talk all I could think was "this sounds like a fairy tale" and it does.

    And somewhere past that I realized that God is big enough to take the questions. And that all our systems of who describing who he is and what he required ultimately fail. Lost in translation of culture and language over thousands of years, and yet still people are people and wisdom can be found in it. There is a lot more that I don't know than I know. And that is totally okay. Questioning if anything should be welcomed because through it, we grow.

    So grace and joy in the journey, keep on thinking and questioning and asking. You'll find whatever you are looking for :)

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  23. Have you ever sought the Lord with these honest questions? Read Prov. 2 and ask Him to show Himself strong - He will. I was not raised Christian and had a rather dramatic conversion that (IMHO) saved me from a dark path i was headed down. Seek and you shall find ... Are you seeking?

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  24. I'll gander a guess you haven't read the rest of my blog, Anonymous. Try that first, then come back to me with questions like that. But, you'll see that I find them quite foolish.

    And what does "show himself strong" mean anyway? It's pure jargon. Also, how do you know the "Lord" talked to you? Could it just be your mind? Why don't you seek the truth as I am doing. Prove God exists. Prove it so that all of mankind can know without a shadow of a doubt he exists.

    Study the Old Testament. If that god does in fact exist, be afraid. Be very very afraid.

    I am not headed down a dark path. It is VERY light, DESPITE not believing in your God. Try that on for size once. It will change your world.

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  25. Excellent post. This is the first one I've read; I'll have to go check out the rest.

    Where you are about a belief in a god sounds like the same journey I took (and am still taking I guess). I gradually went from devoutly Christian and then began the slow journey through deism, agnosticism and finally atheism.

    "Seek and ye shall find"...Lol

    Little do people know how true that actually is. The problem is that Christians really AREN'T seeking; not realistically anyways. They are searching at most for confirmation of their beliefs; not whether their beliefs are true in the first place.

    Good stuff, I look foward to more reading :)

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  26. Thanks, Conrad!

    My earlier writing reveals my belief in a paradoxical god that can be evil and good at the same time. Jesus and the Holy Spirit were a big part of that. I didn't take much stock in the reliability of the whole Bible.

    Then, I moved to what you will see in my later writings. I am an agnostic but, if it's easier to call me an atheist, then so be it. I just don't care to get into the muddy waters of meta-physical debates about whether a god can exist or does exist.

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