God wants you to beg

beggar2 What do God and the Queen have in common?

Neither of them do money. Famously, Queen Elizabeth II never carries cash. It’s not like she’s ever going to find herself out of milk so that she has to dash to shop for some. Even if she did, she wouldn’t be expected to pay for it. So she doesn’t need to bother with money.

Same with God. He’s less likely to run out of milk, it’s true, but he does lots of important work in the world and a bit like the Queen, who is funded in large part by the British tax payer, he expects everyone else to cough up what’s needed.

Though he’s a God of abundance who supplies whatever is asked of him, he just can’t bring himself to do money. We know this because those humans who work for him here on earth constantly have to beg other people for it. When they’re busy getting his Word™ out to those who don’t have a Bible of their own, the Lord refuses to pay a penny. Likewise, he declines to assist the brave souls who work tirelessly protecting one-man-one-woman marriage, which, as they tell us, was all his idea in the first place. Nor does he support building Noah’s Arks theme parks ($18 million in tax perks helped with that one), church maintenance (tithes anyone?), helping the persecuted or feeding the hungry. He’ll do all he can to help, naturally, just so long as he doesn’t have to put his hands in his pockets and get them grubby handling cash.

No, what all these noble causes need they have to raise themselves, which is why every single Christian enterprise begs for money, not from God who they know won’t help, but from fellow human beings. ‘Search your heart,’ they tell the gullible, ‘and ask the Lord what he would have you give us.’ Could this the same God of whom Paul says, “He is able to make every blessing of yours overflow for you, so that in every situation you will always have all you need for any good work” (2 Corinthians 9.8)? It surely could. And this being so, why, when he specifically directs his people to create projects that will make his Kingdom a reality, does the money not come pouring in to the point where it ‘overflows’? God being God could make it happen supernaturally or, if that’s a little too ostentatious, by more mundane means. But he doesn’t, hence all the begging.

Like his love, God’s provision is met only through other human beings, be it money, food, love or, most importantly of all, spreading the Word™. You have to wonder, when he finds himself incapable of supporting even his own causes – and they are his own causes because those who operate them on his behalf tell us so – whether he has the remotest interest in any of them.

Which might just be because it’s all a delusion.

The Lord really wants you to support the efforts of this site. Send cash only in a plain brown envelope and he will surely bless you.

 

 

All in the mind

Disaster

A new minister at the church near where I live has announced his plans to bring ‘God’s love’ to people in the parish. This sounds laudable enough, I suppose – it’s better than delivering God’s condemnation and judgement as many holy rollers are prone to do – but it begs the question why God doesn’t deliver his own love in person. Why is it he feels he can only channel his love through flawed and fallible human beings? Why doesn’t he engage intimately with his creation and let his love be known and felt directly? Why doesn’t he show his love by eradicating cancer, say, or preventing natural disasters, or exterminating the mosquitoes that cause the deaths of up to 2.7 million people every year? Why, in anything that would count as a tangible expression of God’s love for the world, as declared in John 3.16, is there a singular lack of evidence for both his love and his very presence?

‘Ah, but wait!’ say any Christians reading this. ‘God’s love is made manifest through his people, just as the new minister suggests.’ But this is my point; if I only ever expressed my affection for my loved ones through intermediaries – or even strangers, as this minister is to me – or only through a succession of Valentine’s cards, what sort of impression of my love would they have? They would, I think, be unconvinced of it, because love is not just a distant expression of feeling; it’s what we do for others. Love is action.

‘Ah, but wait again!’ say the Christians. ‘What about the second part of John 3.16 that tells us that God showed his love for the world by sending Jesus to die for us?’ You’ll pardon me, won’t you, if I find that a paltry and pathetic expression of love? If I had somehow expressed my love for others millennia ago, no-one at this distance would be impressed by a largely symbolic ‘gift’ proffered only after its original intended recipients declined it (Matthew 22. 8-10).

God didn’t really do this, of course; he didn’t send Jesus, didn’t instruct Paul to extend to all and sundry the offer of salvation Jesus made only to Jews, didn’t transmit any sort of time-travelling compassion to reach us in the present; doesn’t express his love through other flawed human beings today. How do we know this? Because there is no God to show us love nor to judge or condemn us. Any judgement, condemnation or love is expressed by other human beings, frequently in the name of one god or another but humanly derived even when drawn from a holy book. Gods don’t write books; they’re human creations too.

Everything to do with God, from his very existence and all of his supposed attributes – his aversion to sin, his revelations about himself, his miraculous and mysterious ways, his answers to prayer, his non-answers to prayer, his supposed offer of eternal life, his holy books and his hatred and love – derive from human hopes and fears and our need for explanation. We know this because God’s love and all his other supposed characteristics are made manifest through human agency and in no other way; they have no existence outside the human imagination. So the new minister’s love can’t really be from God. At best, it will be a level of interest and concern for a limited number of people, because that is all that is humanly possible. Even so, it’s more than a God with no direct dealings with his creation can manage. Every expression of who he is, how he thinks and how he behaves is a projection of how human beings think and behave. That is why he is so maddeningly inconsistent across cultures and even within them depending on which cult (and they’re all cults) denomination or church claims to be representing him. The Christian God is, like all the others, a human creation and all manifestations of him – including his much vaunted love and the relationship believers claim to have with him – are entirely human too.

Pick and Mix

Kiss2If the Bible is the Word of God™ why, Christians, are you so selective in your use of it? I’ve previously considered how you dismiss much of what Jesus said as well as how you ignore the brutality of the Old Testament and the rest of the New Testament isn’t immune from your selectivity. You disregard, for example, verses like these:

Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says. (1 Corinthians 14.34)

I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet. (1 Timothy 2.12)

For if a woman does not cover her head, she might as well have her hair cut off; but if it is a disgrace for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, then she should cover her head. (1 Corinthians 11.6)

Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord (Colossians 3.18)

Slaves, obey your earthly masters with deep respect and fear. Serve them sincerely as you would serve Christ. (Ephesians 6:5)

Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. (Romans 13:1)

Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewellery or fine clothes. (1 Peter 3.3)

Greet one another with a holy kiss. (Romans 16.16)

Why don’t you obey these commands? You should if the Bible really is the Word of God, like you say it is. I’d suggest you don’t because like the rest of us, you derive your morals and values from the culture around you. As these change so too do your Christian beliefs; always much more slowly than the rest of society and with much resistance and tantruming, but eventually your views evolve and catch up with the rest of society. Provided you’re not part of the lunatic fringe (in which case I doubt you’d be reading this), you now generally accept values and practices that were unthinkable in the relatively recent past:

You don’t support the idea women should keep silent in church;
You accept them as preachers, ministers and bishops;
You don’t insist they keep their hair covered;
You don’t promote the idea they should be subservient to men.

You don’t see a man’s hair style as having anything to do with his faith or place among you.

You don’t endorse slavery.

You do oppose governments and authorities when you think they’re denying you your rights.

As for holy kisses… not so much.

You excuse yourself from adhering to the Biblical position on these matters by saying that here (and here alone) its teaching is culturally bound. These stipulations, and these only, you say, stem from views of women, conduct and practices at the time Paul and others were writing. As such, you claim, they are not binding today. You’re right of course, but then you insist that other of the Bible’s pronouncements, many of which, like its invective against gay people, are equally insupportable, are absolutes and binding for all time. How, I wonder, do you know which is which?

I’m confident that you don’t research the Graeco-Roman culture of the first and second centuries to determine where the New Testament’s writers are reflecting the mores of their day and where they’re providing eternal truths. No, what you do is decide arbitrarily, occasionally with the help of ‘experts’ who know no more about it than you do, which of the teaching you will accept and which you won’t.

It all comes down to a matter of taste, personal biases and what is compatible with your particular culture’s values. This is why you will, before long, come round to accepting gay people – unless you live in a part of the world that still reviles homosexuality, in which case your views will continue to reflect that of your culture. You can then go on claiming, for a little while longer, that your prejudice is derived from the scripture.

But let’s have no more insistence that the Bible is the Word of God offering eternal values and absolute standards. You don’t believe it yourself; if you did, you would apply all New Testament values and standards consistently and completely in your own life and within your church. You don’t. To paraphrase Paul Simon, you believe what you want to believe and disregard the rest.

The Kindness of Strangers

FloodLast weekend the city in which I live, and where I was born, was flooded during storm Desmond. This is the second time in ten years that this has happened to parts of it. Flood defences couldn’t hold back the deluge and some of the same areas that were affected in 2005 were flooded again. People lost property, possessions and livelihoods.

There has been a phenomenal response to the disaster from so many people from all over the city and beyond it; a great outpouring of kindness and practical help. There has been, as there always is at times like these, a tiny minority who have sought to exploit the situation for their own ends. But by far the greatest response has been one of support. There is such resilience and the demonstration of real love for other people.

In none of the reports about the storm, the flood and its aftermath have I heard anyone mention God. He hasn’t been blamed or appealed to; there haven’t been any meaningless platitudes about him really caring or claims that he’s punishing those affected (though some UKIP clot did say it was all somehow the fault of Syrian refugees.) While church groups are undoubtedly involved in the clean-up and helping people, it is greatly encouraging that no-one has invoked the name of the Lord. It shows how much he has become an irrelevancy; he is an irrelevancy. Even if he were not, it is practically impossible for Christians and others of a religious disposition to explain why a supposed loving God allows such indiscriminate natural disasters and why he’s always conspicuous by his absence afterwards. Best to do what the good folks of my town have done and ignore him (or the idea of him) and get on with the business of helping one another.

We have only one another; there’s no-one else going to come to our aid. There’s still a long way to go here, but it’s encouraging and heartwarming to see people helping each other without the need for any God. I have never felt sadder for my city and yet never more proud.

 

What is the point?

Stairway

There isn’t any point. At least, not ‘out there’ somewhere, waiting to be discovered. The point, purpose and meaning of life is what we make of it. We make our own purpose.

The Christians among us claim to have real purpose. Not like we sad non-believers whose purpose is to do with raising and supporting our family, being creative, doing things for others or whatever. No, Christians get their real purpose from God, or so they say. Perhaps some of them would be good enough to share it with us; is it rushing from one church meeting to another? Singing badly written hymns badly? Cosying up to one another? Telling others about the great salvation plan?

Apparently not, though they do seem to spend a lot of time doing these things. According to CARM the purpose of life ‘is to praise God, worship Him… proclaim His greatness, and… accomplish His will.’ Got Questions, on the other hand, says it’s to ‘1) glorify God and enjoy fellowship with Him, 2) have good relationships with others, 3) work, and 4) have dominion over the earth,’ while Open Bible claims it’s ‘to love and serve God in order to help bring about God’s glorious plan for creation.’

That’s it? The purpose faith supplies is this woolliness? It’s about doing stuff we already do (‘work’, ‘have good relationships with others’) and fawning over a needy, insecure deity? God help us if this is all it amounts to. Those who claim to know the secrets of eternal life and the mind of God himself should surely be able to come up with something better than the rest of us.

As I’ve written before, this isn’t what Jesus told his followers life was for. No, he said it was to work to bring about God’s kingdom on Earth (Matthew 6.33; 13.44, Luke 9.62 etc). Try as you might you’ll struggle to find a Christian site that says this is the point. That’s because Christians long ago – almost two thousand years ago – stopped believing that God’s kingdom was due to arrive here and switched their expectation to one of an after-life in heaven. But that’s not what the Bible promises, and it’s certainly not what Jesus said.

So maybe, Christians, you’re missing the point of your faith and your purpose in life; it’s to bring about the Kingdom of God on Earth (Matthew 6.10) – in the first century (Mark 9.1). No wonder you’re now so rudderless, so lacking in direction and real purpose. You missed the boat, which sank without you two millennia ago.

Now you have to construct your own meaning, just like the rest of us. Except ours is better, lacking as it does the faux Biblical language and all those fairy tale elements.

 

 

For God So Loves The World

NepalFor God so loves the world he let an earthquake and its many aftershocks kill up to 10,000 people in Nepal.

For God so loves the world he stood by while up 100,000 more people lost everything, including their homes, because of the same earthquake.

For God so loves the world he drowned 900 refugees fleeing the terrors of war in their own countries.

For God so loves the world he allowed 250 individuals to be killed by a rogue pilot who flew the plane they were on into the side of a mountain.

But wait! One particular Christian preacher knows why this kind of thing happens. He can explain how these catastrophes, particularly the devastation caused by the earthquake, are compatible with a God of love. Here’s what it’s really all about:
Tweet

That’s right. God only allowed these terrible things to happen so that more people – excluding the ones he murdered, obviously – would have the chance to turn to Christ. Isn’t that marvellous? And Tony Miano, who is the same lunatic street preacher arrested in London in 2013 for sharing God’s ‘love’ for LGBT people, is not alone. German pastor Wolfgang Wegert said much the same thing of those who died on Germanwings Flight 9525: ‘A plane crash is a reminder of our own mortality. By that, God wants to make people repent, so that we (can) be saved by Jesus.’

And, do you know, they’re right. No, really, they are. There is no other response available to the Christian who wants to explain events that involve the terrible loss of life. That’s because the Christian God, the one who purports to love us so much, as well as all the other versions, is conspicuous by his absence. He’s always absent, always powerless to prevent such disasters, too remote to want to. Which might just suggest he doesn’t exist (which of course he doesn’t) leaving those who feel the need to cling to belief in him to explain his actions or, rather, the lack of them. So they supply him with an ulterior motive. And why not? A fabricated being needs a fabricated excuse. But this being the real world, the options are limited. So what we get is this; God is only trying to draw people to him. How truly loving. The equivalent of a human father murdering several of his children so that those he spares might love him more. A monstrous and preposterous idea for a monstrous and preposterous God.

And so it falls to human beings of all persuasions to show compassion and to help the survivors of earthquakes, the relatives of plane crashes, the misplaced and grieving refugees. We might be flawed, fallible and – according to the self-righteous – ‘sinful’, but we can at our best, demonstrate the love so lacking in their absent deities. And unlike the many meaningless gods, from Yahweh and Jesus to Allah and Vishnu, we can be present too, because we are real.

 

You can donate to the Nepal earthquake appeal here.

Gentle Jesus – meek and mild?

StonedWhen it comes to derogatory and hateful remarks about minorities, Jesus is frequently given a pass. His ‘meek and mild’ persona – not one he actually had, but one he’s acquired over time – is brought into play to absolve him of all unpleasantness.

For example, and as liberal bloggers are fond of saying, here’s what he had to say about gay marriage:

                                                                                                                                            ”

 

Yup, that’s right; he said absolutely nothing about it – not directly anyway. But what Jesus did say, if ‘Matthew’ is to believed, was that he upheld the Jewish Law in its minutest detail:

Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfil. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5.17-19)

That’s the Law that prescribes death for even the smallest infraction that he’s endorsing there. Here’s a brief sample of that Law and the penalty for breaking its petty rules:

Stone to death anyone who works on the Sabbath. (Exodus 35.2 and Numbers 15.32-36)

Kill publicly children who dishonour their father or mother. (Leviticus 20.9)

Stone to death anyone who blasphemes the name of the Lord. (Leviticus 24.16)

Execute a married couple who have sexual intercourse during the woman’s period. (Leviticus 18.19)

Put to death those involved in adultery. (Leviticus 20.10)

Execute any man who lies with another man, as with a woman. (Leviticus 20.13)

Stone to death at her father’s door any woman who is not a virgin on her wedding night. (Deuteronomy 22.13-14 and 20-21).

Sound familiar? With its oppressive brutality and liberal use of the death penalty, this sort of behaviour is like IS practices today. They’re both desert ‘moralities’, after all. And this is the law that Jesus advocates and insists remains in place until ‘heaven and earth pass away’. As that hasn’t happened yet, the Law, according to Jesus anyway, remains in effect. Never mind that Paul says it doesn’t – God himself, in the shape of Jesus Christ says it does. How’s that for meek and mild?

(Cue Christians referencing the story of the woman caught in adultery. That, however, is a late addition to the Bible and, in any case, Jesus only saves the woman because his beloved Law hasn’t been properly complied with.)

Thankfully, civilised human beings – and civilised Christians too – ignore Jesus and don’t seek to apply such old barbaric laws (though there are some believers who want to when it comes to LGBT people; see my previous post.) But if you want to know Jesus’ position on moral issues that he doesn’t pontificate on explicitly, just remember he fully supports the death penalty for adultery, homosexuality, working on the Sabbath, not being a virgin on your wedding night, having sex at the wrong time of month, dancing, listening to the radio, tweeting and texting… oh wait… now I have got him confused with Islamic extremists. It’s so easy to do.
Next time: Jesus says that the only way to gain eternal life is to follow this vicious Law with all its unreasonable demands.