Friday, June 1, 2012

Is a Doubting Thomas Really All That Bad?

A good friend of mine leaned back in his chair and said the following profound statement:

"[God] made an appearance for 'Doubting Thomas', why not me?"

Recently, I have been engaging friends and strangers in conversations about proof of the existence of the god of the Bible.  Of course, nobody I have spoken to has ever seen him and thus have to resort to axiomatic arguments.

"The Bible proves that God exists because he said he wrote it and thus, he did."

My counter to that is simple.  Many holy books and religious leaders say the exact same thing.  They state that their religion is true, even exclusive to other religions.  Sometimes, they even go as far as the writers of the Bible and say that you're a fool if you don't agree with them.  I find these written statements to be quite presumptuous on the writer's part and actually quite intellectually lazy.

If you cannot prove what you are writing, don't patronize the reader.  Any other book that tries to play that game will be laughed off of a book store's bookshelf.  Some may try it, but we apply academic rigor and reasonable logic to thwart the slaps of the author.  Nobody that writes a statement like that can or should be taken seriously.

Or, they say something like this:

"The Holy Spirit has done a great work in me, so I know he exists."

How can a person say that?  Couldn't it be their mind that taught them how to live?  Experiential growth and maturity in life?  I would consider that more likely than an imaginary existence of a being inside of you.  (Disclaimer: This response is one that I respect.  It removes the need to treat the Bible as an inerrant and infallible guide book and allows the person of faith to live a life of caring and love.  Even so, I still must engage with a question of "prove it, I want video".)

But, there are two other responses I get (other than the intellectually lazy responses that say that the world around us makes it obvious that God made it and my personal favorite, there were thousands of witnesses in Jesus' time and they all corroborated his existence - not even remotely factually accurate) raise my eyebrows so high that my forehead looks like a hound dog's cheeks.


Any other variant of those two phrases is pretty comical.  If I ask more questions, I get the same answer shouted back at me.  It's almost like the person doing the yelling believes that his words will somehow shock me into the obvious realization that they are right and I am wrong.  But all I am doing is asking questions to make them think.  Why bother yelling?

And the second - and really, the point of this post - statement:

"You have to have faith.  God does not have to show himself to you.  If you don't believe, you'll just go to hell.  Stop being a doubting Thomas."

I don't blame the bearer of this news at all.  I'll explain in a bit why they have the story of Didymus (Thomas) all wrong, but first, let's see why it's expected that a Christian believes this.

The writer of 1 Corinthians 1:18 scratches the backs of those who believe what he is writing by telling them that all who reject his words are going to hell anyway, so it's to be expected.  So you see, a Christian who swallows this teaching is obligated to treat the Bible, if they believe that is in fact God's word, as factual, because it says it is, even if the logic is against them.

There is a problem though.  That teaching is in stark contrast to the alleged words of Jesus in the book of John.  Jesus didn't refuse to allay Thomas' doubts by quoting 1 Corinthians 1:18 at him.  No.  He actually said, "You have seen, so now you believe."  And he didn't follow it up with, "so you're going to hell."  Or, "you're the only lucky bloke that got to see me but everyone else has to just believe or they go to hell."

That last statement is not Jesus' alleged words.  And yet, it is exactly the sort of attitude that oozes from fundamentalist Christianity or any branch of Christianity that purports itself to be the exclusive path to heaven.

But, I stand with Thomas and my friend, and, by default, Jesus himself.  If God really does exist, if Jesus is really God's son and can walk through walls to show himself to Thomas, he sure as bloody nails can do the same to any doubter in the entire universe.

I'm waiting.  But I won't hold my breath.


  1. I personally do not fricking understand why God doesn't show up in everyone's life like I experienced God! Seriously! It annoys me to no end, and there is absolutely nothing I can do it about it. Phooey.

    I could tell you what I was up to when it occurred: homeless, deeply depressed, sick, unwanted, unloved, unnoticed, and experiencing really tormenting thoughts of shame and suicide.

    That's when God smiled at me, so to speak. That's what I was up to and how hard I was trying to live a religious life. I am so glad that God showed up that day. I can't really explain it, but I sensed God. I didn't see God, but it was almost more real than seeing something would be.

    These things I know and not because the Bible tells me so, but because of personal experience:

    God is so good, so darned good, like no ill will or mean-spiritedness or think-skin to be found anywhere in his character. Good like everyone would want to hang out with him and be like him. Good beyond the best person you know. THAT good.

    He/she is so amazingly good that I felt quite aware of how "not like God" I am. That made me feel kind of squirmy. Not because God shamed me or anything, but I guess because I am so self-centered that I compared myself to God without thinking twice about it.

    But there was no time to feel ashamed, because I was also at the same time aware that God loved me, just the way I was, I mean REALLY THOUGHT I WAS ADORABLE. It's almost embarrassing to be loved like that. And very, very beautiful.

    Since I grew up in the USA, I called out to Jesus for help right before God revealed himself to me. To me, God=Jesus and always will. So, duh, I went to a Christian church to find out how to be closer to God.

    At times a blessing and ultimately a faith-killer, the evangelical church told me how to interpret my experience and my God. They got it mostly wrong.

    I am just now going back to what I personally know of God, and trying to re-think all of the Bible in light of what I know personally about God. It reads very differently to me these days.

    The God who revealed love to me that day? Not gonna burn anyone in hell. Your own conscience may burn with embarrassment, but I doubt if any one can resist the love of God for all eternity. And Jesus isn't shutting anyone out. Not homeless, druggie, drinking former party girls who have nothing left to lose or offer. Not anyone else either.

    I truly think that religious folks will hold out against the love of God/God who is Love the longest. If you want to interpret that as hell, then yeah, the goats will be so ashamed they will turn away, gnashing their teeth with sorrow and regret. But they can join the party later when they get over themselves, I'm sure.

    Why doesn't God do this for everyone, or at least all the sincere people who ask? I dunno. I wasn't really asking for more than just help with depression/self-hatred/wanting to die. It just happened.

    But that's just me. Should it someday turn out I just have one of the most amazing brains on the planet, and my own brain created this whole scenario, then FYEAH I GOT THE MOST AWESOME BRAIN EVER! Yay me.

    But for now, I'm interpreting this as something that happened in reality. =D

    1. Lol! Love your perspective. And, by the way, you ARE adorable.

  2. Shadow, you need to publish that reply as its own post on your blog. It is superb!

  3. We can't just choose to beleave or unbeleave, it is not that simple, it never is. I just believe and can't really help it and my atheist friends don't and can't just start believing, you know just in case. Faith is not about proof, we can't prove it if we did it would not be a matter of faith it would be fact and who needs to believe or have faith in fact. I don't ave faith in the germ theory of desedsse of the theory of evolution, it has been proven, and that is that. That is atleast how I look at it.

  4. As an addition, visiting again now: Doubting Thomas is who I am, want to be and who I admire in the Bible and I don't see Jesus as admonishing him or saying he is bad in anyway. He merely tells him to now believe, after he has seen, and that those believing without seeing are blessed. Who do people think that saying one thing is good or positive makes the other bad.