Friday, February 26, 2010

In which a Christian discovers there’s an Old Testament, or, On the straw gods

First, the funny:

Via One Year Skeptic.

New Atheists loooove the problem of evil, because, since many of them grew up in fundamentalist churches, they know that most evangelicals have been saddled with a very Modernistic view of God.  For most evangelicals God is pretty much as the philosophers describe what they think he ought to be: omniscient, omnipresent, all-benevolent, etc.  Which is a fairly strange starting point since, as this video shows, a cursory reading of the Old Testament makes that view seem totally insane.  So the unsuspecting believer gets caught in a bind since she has some historically bizarre notions of what God must be like, and there’s just no way that YHWH is anything like those.  At all.

At 2:07 on the video, Beleaguered Believer begins to whip out the “overall plan of God” defense as an explanation for why the OT is so chock full of crazy.  Worldly Atheist Guy dispenses with this nonsense very quickly, invoking the word “omnipotent” before Beleaguered Believer can finish sputtering on the word “Jesus.”


How many irritating arguments we could avoid if we just stopped trying to make God into what human beings feel like God would be if they invented him.  Yes, of course, if I, in my near-infinite wisdom were to invent a god, I would make him follow the Hippocratic oath or Asimov’s Robot Rules or whatever, but I didn’t.  The Universe didn’t ask me what kind of God I wanted, or even how I thought Godhood ought to be.  Instead, I was born into a universe in which God has 99 problems but omnipotence ain’t one.  And please, before I am stamped 'Heretic!’ and kicked out of the church let me just say, “Fine, okay, God could be omnipotent if God wanted, but, for whatever reason, God didn’t, and God limited Godself in the way that God relates and interacts in creation.”  Fair?

Next, the issue of the immoral god.  Skeptics also love to quote Joshua or Judges or Leviticus and laugh at how God is so…gauche.  As if life on planet Earth is generally characterized by aristocratic politesse and anyone hoping to be considered for the position of God need not apply unless he or she hails from a noble house.  Good Lord.  What, millions of years of blood, crust, violence and pain and God is supposed to just show up on the scene like Mr. Belvedere and tidy up the place?  Are you serious?

Attention skeptics (and Christians, for that matter): The situation is so…barbaric around here that, in some A-Team style guerilla rescue campaign, God plans to, what, become a human being and get murdered by the religious and political elites of his own chosen people and their oppressive masters?  Why the hell would you expect a deity who thinks that is a sound plan to act like Mary Poppins?

One thing that’s fun about taking the bible seriously is to see the look on a Skeptic’s face when she realizes for the first time that you really do think God is a tribal deity along the lines of Oden.  Except decked out with way more…awesome.  It’s like, “What? That’s crazy.”  Oh is it?  Put the KoolAid down, Sister, and look around.  You know, at this blood and spittle-flecked world you live in?  The one with Darfur and Nazis and Haitian Hurricanes?  You think because I believe in God I suddenly think this place was invented by Strawberry Shortcake-pants and the Care Bear Band?

Jeez.  If there’s a God who is trying to redeem a single damn thing in this galactic charnel house, he’s got blood on his hands, tears in his eyes, and thorns on his brow.


  1. The problem is, if God loses the moral high-ground, then he is nothing more that a deranged dictator, a regular Galactic Nero. Which would make his dutiful servants on the ground nothing more then henchman, a collection lackeys that follow the big man because they are either equally deranged, or too cowardly to oppose him. In this retelling, atheists (at least the moral ones, I don't think Stalin makes the cut) become the hero's of the story, the few and the proud that are willing to stand up for what's right, be damned the consequences! For some reason, I don't think this is where you were going with this blog post.

  2. (1) You're supposing that "getting one's hands dirty" automatically makes you a "Galactic Nero". Why not a "Galactic Eisenhower"? Dwight Eisenhower "got his hands dirty" and thank God he did it. In the Pacific, thousands of troops got left behind because of an overall strategic decision to take out Hitler first and then focus on Japan. Really sucked for those guys, but again, I think it was the *moral* decision.

    This from Lion, Witch, and the Wardrobe:

    "'Safe?' said Mr. Beaver...'Who said anything about safe? 'Course he isn't safe. but he's good. He's the King, I tell you.'"

  3. Oh, and atheism wouldn't be heroic in your telling, it would be delusional. The truly heroic thing to do would be to acknowledge the deity and actively oppose him in the name of justice (this, by the way, is exactly the path Ivan Karamazov travels in Brothers Karamazov).

    If more pansy spiritualist agnostic atheist types did this, they would earn my grudging respect. It's hard not to look a worthy foe in the eye.

  4. What exactly do you consider "getting one's hands dirty"? Killing every man, woman and child in an enemy village? Stoning people for adultery? Destroying the entire Earth because it had become too sinful?

    Of course you're right, if the God of the Old Testament overtly revealed himself to the world (say with an interview on Leno), then any atheist that persisted would be delusional. Of course, at that point "theism" in it's present form would be rather obsolete, as God would be part of the measurable real world with a visible stature and audible voice, and presumably wouldn't need ministers, holy books or other vagaries to communicate his will.

  5. Could it be that the formulation of religious text, were not divinely inspired but created by early man in a first attempt to explain the workings of the world around them, then evolved into a system of control over society giving themselves a divine right to do as they saw fit?

    Or is it easier to believe the god of Abraham decided to make life on Earth a cosmic game of chance. Devised twenty two different ways of knowing it's will, plan, wishes, etc. separated the different pathways by geography (so where you were born dictated which path to god you choose), then giving only one of these twenty two paths the only way to salvation which is(for sake of this argument) Christianity. Then the god of Abraham decided to allow 33,000 different denominations of Christianity to spring up with all of them claiming they know the correct traditions, procedures to properly receive that salvation?

    This is what we have without even getting into what each religious fragmented copulations say. Context doesn't even enter into it for me, why are there so many conflicting divinely inspired books if God is so perfect, competent, or remotely awesome?


    Ivan Karamazov lives!