Monday, October 5, 2009

Why Pick the God of the Bible? pt. 2

A couple months back, I started rebutting an article from and said I'd do the rest in a week. Oops. Here's the rest now. We got through "A God Who Is Greater Than We Are" and now I just need to wrap up "A God Who Can Be Known Personally".
A person can have the same kind of relationship with God that he or she has with a close family member. In fact, those that know him, he calls his children, bride, friends. So the God of the Bible is anything but impersonal. He gets angry and sad, shows mercy, kindness and forgiveness, and is a wholly emotional being. He is highly intellectual, having personality and wit. We can know more than just merely facts about him, we can actually know him intimately like a best friend. "Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God."
Maybe my definition of "same" is narrower than the folks at EveryStudent. See, I would consider the relationship I used to think I had with an invisible, unproven, never appearing God was pretty different from the relationship I had with my physical, obviously real, genetically linked family members.

And let's think for a moment about what being a child or a bride meant in the Biblical era. Hmmm, property! Women and children were essentially the property of men in those ancient Jewish tribes. The Bible even includes laws for how to go about selling your daughter as a slave. Gee, being God's special little daddy's girl kind of sucks in that light.

To quote Rupert Giles and apply it to the "entirely emotional" god of the Bible, "You have the emotional maturity of a blueberry scone." I don't think more emotion is what's needed to improve the image of the Christian God. Perhaps some bipolar medication, but not more emotionality, please. This is a guy who supposedly floods a planet for a temper tantrum. It'd be good if he did a little less emoting and a little more helping.

I'd really like to see the evidence that the Biblical god is intelligent or witty. Unless of course you consider having to scrap your plan for humanity - multiple times - as evidence of someone being "highly intelligent". I don't.

Nor do I think turning a woman to salt is the best example of wit. After all, isn't brevity the soul of wit? The Bible is long, and much of it painfully boring. Clearly, God needed an editor. Oh, and I have yet to become intimate with an imaginary being, but if I got to pick on, it wouldn't be Yahweh.

  • The nature of God - A God Who Can Relate to the Human Experience
Some think of a God as being remote and distant, like he created the universe, then left it alone to operate on its own. Wouldn't it be better to have a God who is involved in the universe, and specifically, in what's happening here on Earth? And what about the unique difficulties, responsibilities and challenges that we face as human beings? Wouldn't it be better to have a God who could understand those things, a God who somehow knows what it's like to endure life in the harsh world he's allowed to exist?
Once again, "wouldn't it be better" is not a sufficient reason to behave as if something is true. And I also disagree with the premise that it would necessarily be better to have an involved god. I think the nature and character of the deity would play a large role in how I viewed it, and what level of influence I might appreciate. As a general rule, the concept of servile worship as decreed by monotheism is vile, disgusting, and insulting to human dignity. It is distasteful. Furthermore, I think reliance on an omnipotent best buddy robs people of a sense of accomplishment for their achievements, and responsibility for their actions. Furthermore, to anyone proposing that such an omnipotent god exists, I offer to the Problem of Pain. Why does your god love middle-class white Americans more than he loves poor African children, born with HIV and deprived of proper nutrition and education? Rather than a god who "knows what it's like to endure life in the harsh world", I'd prefer a god who would actually do something to alleviate suffering and reduce the world's harshness.
The God of the Bible knows what it means to be one of us. Jesus Christ was not only God's Son, he was God who had taken on a human form and a human nature. "In the beginning was the Word [Jesus], and the Word [Jesus] was with God, and the Word [Jesus] was God. The Word became flesh [human] and made his dwelling among us."
Well, see, there's a problem with that statement. If Jesus took on a human nature (a sinful nature), then he would have been "guilty" of the same original sin we're all supposedly born with. Which means he would not have been a sacrifice with no blemish (like an all white lamb or other animal sacrifice, as detailed in the Old Testament), and the entire Atonement idea rests on this. And if Jesus was born without this sinful nature, then he was not fully human. Ta-da! That was way too easy. (How did I believe this crap for two decades?)

I'll skip all the verses of god-said-he-was-super-cool stuff, and move on to the next outlandish and unsupported claims instead.
Though he was fully God, Jesus was also, somehow, fully man. He hungered, slept, wept, ate. He endured every kind of difficulty we face, and then some. Therefore, the Bible says he is not "unable to sympathize with our weaknesses." He was "tempted in every way, just as we are -- yet was without sin."
Every kind of difficulty, huh? Did he lose a child to cancer, like my friend Amber? Was he gang raped? Did he ever get diddled by a priest or rabbi? Did Jesus have crabs, herpes, HIV/AIDS, an enlarged prostate, a ruptured appendix, a yeast infection, back problems, arthritis, and erectile dysfunction? Because otherwise, this claim is laughable on its face. Christianity holds the idea that the crucifixion was the absolute worst thing that could ever happen to someone; it was the Biggest Deal Ever. And to that I say, Auschwitz.
So the God of the Bible didn't remain aloof from the pain, suffering and evil in our world. He endured life as we must endure it. In fact, he had a very humble time while on this planet. He was born into a poor household, was not physically attractive, encountered prejudice and hatred, was misunderstood even by family and friends, and was wrongfully executed.
I just don't buy the idea that a dude who can magic up some loaves, fishes, and wine when he's feeling a bit peckish ever "endured life as we must endure it" in terms of hunger. There's no way Jesus was waiting in line for food stamps. If I had superpowers and could make food appear whenever, I'd do it. I'd also do it for a ton of people. I'd go travel around the world producing food for hungry people. It might be a little more helpful than getting martyred for them, right?

And hey, in most of the Jesus pictures I've seen he was a hotty. Where does the idea that he was physically unattractive come from? And see every cult leader feels "misunderstood". It's not really an indication that what they say is true. I'm sure Marshall Applewhite, Jim Jones, and David Koresh all felt very misunderstood. (Oh, and they all thought they were the second coming of Christ.)

Moving on to the fourth "reason" to pick the God of the Bible as your deity or choice.

  • The nature of God - A God Who Really Cares About Us
Most of us want to be accepted and loved. We want people to really care about us, and not just with superficial words. We want their care and concern to be proven by their actions. Wouldn't the same be true for God? Meaning, wouldn't it be ideal if God really cared about us and then gave us tangible proof of that love?
Well, gee, I'm still just waiting on tangible proof of his existence. God's lack of discernible action is actually one of my many objections to belief.
"This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins." "God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life."
Christians sure do love John 3:16. And I sure do love John 3:18 (which the always seem to leave off, for some reason.) "Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son." "God is love", right?
The God of the Bible claims to be a perfect and holy being. "God is light; in him there is no darkness at all." As such, he desires relationships that are clean and pure. Therefore, God sent his own Son to make a way for us to become clean before God. Jesus lived a morally perfect life and then was beaten, tortured, and crucified as "payment" for all the wrongful things we've said, done, or thought (called "sins").
As I discussed in a recent post on mental illness, some people have a harder time than others with unwelcome thoughts. For some of us, they just pop up, like having nightmares during the day when you're wide awake. The idea that I could be found guilty for having these thoughts, against my will or influence, is merciless. Thoughts cannot be sins. No real-world harm has been done, so no real-world punishment should be exacted. And while this passage from EveryStudent claims the crucifixiaon was payment for things we've done, the scriptures actually claim that it's atonement for the sinful nature God allowed each of us to be born with (except his son, who we're supposed to pretend experienced life just like we did, despite having super powers and no sinful nature.)

Also I love the "logical" progression. It moves from "God claims to be perfect" to "as such, he desires" to "therefore" torture is justified, because it's a ticking time bomb scenario. Get Dick Cheney and the waterboard - quick! Ahem. This is a classic example of basing an argument on a faulty premise. Just because the Bible claims God is perfect and holy, does not make it so.
God cared for us enough that he sent his Son to die in our place, for our sins. That's how much God wanted to know us. He was willing to do whatever was necessary...dealing with our sin was necessary. Now we can be fully forgiven and begin an unhindered relationship with God.
This "whatever necessary" attitude might explain why so many Christians support torture. Also, here's one of my major objections to the Atonement. Our forgiveness hinges on an action Christ took (or perhaps, that Judas and the Romans took) and on belief, not on our own actions, intentions, or character. We can "be fully forgiven" only if we believe that this outlandish tale is true. Christians disagree on what is required besides belief (or "accepting Jesus into your heart"), whether that includes works of charity, tithing, or abstaining from secular music, but the Bible is expressly clear on the subject of disbelief. Again, go look at John 3:18 up above. Atheists fry forever, according to your all-loving, all-knowing, all-powerful deity who did not see fit to let people of this millenia know with any certainty that he existed. And since disbelief is an express ticket to hell, this lack of action on God's part to reveal himself indicates that either God does not actually desire the majority to make it into heaven (Jehovah's Witnesses, superiority cults) or that god does not exist. It certainly isn't evidence for the divine plan explained by Christians.

  • The nature of God - A God Who Has Things Completely Under Control
All the terrible things in the world prove that a good, all-powerful God doesn't exist, right? Not necessarily. Even a perfect God might allow bad things to happen for a time, as part of some higher plan. God could know exactly what's going on all of the time and only allow so much, all as part of his grand scheme.
Ah, well as long as the Holocaust, 9/11, the Crusades, the Plague, HIV/AIDS, and the rise of Islam and nonbelief are all part of the Christian God's plan, then I guess it's okay!
"Perfect" even.

The God of the Bible is that God. He claims that nothing on Earth happens without his say-so. He is completely sovereign over all things. "Who can speak and have it happen if the Lord has not decreed it?" "I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say: My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please." "The plans of the Lord stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations." "It is the Lord's purpose that prevails."
Okay, again people, just because the Bible claims something, it's not necessarily true. I know this may come as a shock to some, but the Bible is a highly disputed book of questionable authorship, with known errors and a canon voted on by a committee of men, which may not fit in with your concept of a God-breathed perfect Word of Life.

Also, I guess this means we atheists can just quote these verses back to Christians who try to pin the Holocaust or Stalin on us. Clearly it was all part of their God's divine plan, right? I mean, after all, it's not like men are actually able to thwart his plan! So clearly, every bad thing is here on earth because God wills it so. And yet you call him good.

This does not mean, however, that everything that happens is something God likes. For example, Jesus told his disciples how to pray; in that prayer, one of the key statements is: "Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven."26 God's moral will is always done in heaven, but not on Earth. While God is sovereign over all things, he doesn't like everything that takes place on Earth. But for some reason, he allows those things to happen (his permissive will), maybe as part of the freedom of choice we have as human beings.

It was so nice of God to allow humans freedom to abuse and under-educate their children, all as part of his free-will gift to us. Too bad not guessing the right set of propositions about eternity and origins lands in you hell forever, but it's so nice he doesn't interfere with terrorists, Nazis, and pedophile priests. He gives us free will where it *really* counts - in our ability to harm others. (He's much less concerned with saving our souls than he is with allowing rapists, murderers, and cult leaders to have their free will unencumbered.)
But the God of the Bible does have a plan, and he will not rest "until he fully accomplishes the purposes of his heart."27 What is that plan? God's ultimate goal is to dwell with people in a totally different environment than what we presently experience. Of that next world, this God says, "Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. I am making everything new!"
Again, John 3:18. (I might get a tattoo of that, just to start conversations.) If God's goal is to reside with all or most of humanity in heaven, then he has some major design flaws in his plan. I can think up a half a dozen ways to improve it from my armchair, but I'll just offer this one: Prove you exist. If God proved he existed, to every generation as expressly as he supposedly did for the Biblical Israelites, there would no atheists. Millions upon millions of souls throughout history would be saved, rather than singed. And I'm not talking about Hitler (a CHRISTIAN, by the way so please drop that straw man). I'm talking about Bertrand Russell, Robert B Ingersoll, Carl Sagan, Charles Darwin, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and George Carlin - people you might actually want to spend an eternity with, or at least a few hours. I wouldn't want to be stuck in the same eternity as Jerry Fallwell for five minutes, much less forever.

I will do my best to get to the remaining "reasons" in the very near future. Stay tuned for next time when we'll be discussing "A God Who Gives Meaning and Purpose to Life", "A God Who Offers True Fulfillment" and "The Ideal God". Until then, lightspeed and godless.