Thursday, 15 December 2011

Christians don't really believe in the god of the bible!

One thing I and my fellow anti-religionists often encounter when speaking with Christians is a claim that we don't understand god, or Christianity, or the bible, etc.  Given that most of us don't walk into these discussion without doing our research, and that most of us were former believers ourselves, this claim rings hollow.  But why does it persist?  I think it's because we tend to point at the bad and immoral side of faith - the biblical atrocities, the doctrines about hell, etc.  The average Christian simply doesn't see those things as a central part of their faith.  And neither did I.

God is love.  Being a Christian is about being Christlike, being charitable, praying, forgiving, etc.  The modern day vision of god focuses on a very narrow portrait of "the lord."  Ask most any Christian to tell you about their faith and what they describe will resemble very much an imaginary best friend who is the most amazing friend ever!  Even though I was extremely well read compared to most Christians and especially my fellow Catholics, my own focus was mostly the same.  No one uses the term "God fearing" as a virtue anymore.  I've actually heard sermons about how we should not fear god.  Why would you fear your best friend who loves you infinitely?  No, the modern god is "awesome" not because he is jealous, vengeful and wrathful even though there are literally hundreds of references to these attributes of god in the bible!.  No, he is "awesome", because he's so unimaginably nice and loving.  When you point out the vicious genocidal monster called Yahweh in the old testament, or the hard-nosed Jesus of the new who demands such things as the selling of all your property, and talks of the tortures of eternal hellfire, they push these to side as peripheral minor things that are easily explained away by "context."

Like them, the god I believed in was not a god who would command us to slay infants.  My god would not demand death for minor offenses.  My god would not rejoice in destruction and war.  My Jesus was "the prince of peace."  A benign dictator who was strict but fair and loving.

 But that is not the god of the bible.  No matter how all loving we feel his son is, we cannot dismiss the fact that this is the same god who commanded the deaths of millions, who drowned the entire world, who destroyed cities.  This is the same god who demanded the stoning of women for losing their virginity before marriage.  The same one who condoned slavery.  This is the same god who - in the new testament book of Acts - struck dead Ananias and Sapphira because they "lied to the holy spirit" by trying to keep some of the money of the sale of all their worldly possessions instead of giving every bit to the church.    This "holy" book they carry contains material which, if penned by a modern person, would be deemed hate speech in most democracies (except most of the hate speech is directed at races and tribes that have already been wiped out by the genocidal Israelites... though homosexuals and pagans are still around).  But the Christians do not point to these verses and say "look how great god is that he commanded us to stone people for picking sticks on the sabbath."  They do not say "our god is great because he rejoices when we conquer our enemies and dash the heads of infants against the rocks."  They do not say (anymore), how great their god is for permitting slavery.  No, they hide these passages, ignore them, disregard them, or - when forced to face them - they try and explain them away and excuse god by saying he had good reason, or that it makes sense in the historical context.  They rather wish those things weren't in the bible.

I did an interesting experiment a while back.  I went onto the Facebook page called "The Bible", where people posted their favorite bible quotes.  When someone posts a bible verse that is inspirational about how loving god is, everyone "likes" it, and comments "so true!" and "amen!" etc.  I simply posted this from 2 kings 2:   23 From there Elisha went up to Bethel. As he was walking along the road, some boys came out of the town and jeered at him. “Get out of here, baldy!” they said. “Get out of here, baldy!” 24 He turned around, looked at them and called down a curse on them in the name of the LORD. Then two bears came out of the woods and mauled forty-two of the boys."  I didn't get any amens, or so trues... no, I got a lecture about how it was out of context and I should do my homework about the historical context... Bethel was a center of calf worship - and how the Hebrew word doesn't really mean boys, but young men... Basically, a reinterpretation of the story as Elisha was being attacked by an angry mob of pagan youths, and he was just defending himself.  I guess that poster is better at ancient Hebrew than every single bible translator out there, since some variation of "boys" appears in every translation I looked at.  Other posters backed him up.  All I did was post 2 bible verses.  I didn't make any comment.  Nevertheless, some felt it necessary to jump to the defense of the almighty lest his acts be misinterpreted.  Funny, no one cries "context!" when someone posts about the loving god.  And in other times they would have not felt the need to defend this verse, either, but might have seen it as proof of god's power over his enemies requiring no explanation.  But morality has evolved, and the pious now squirm uncomfortably when confronted with the unpleasant parts of the bible.

So my question to bible believing Christians is this:  if you really believe you worship the god of the bible, why pick and choose which parts to read?  Why defend and excuse the "crazy stuff"?  These are things done by or commanded by your eternal god, so shouldn't you be proclaiming them as great instead of trying to justify them, minimize them, reinterpret them, or otherwise show how ashamed you are that these things are part of the "word of god."?  Shouldn't I be able to post ANY bible verse or story and get a bunch of agreement from Christians?  

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