God is revealed in Jesus… or not

 

Blog335CompositeOn his blog-site, humbly named after himself, Roger E. Olson trots out the tired old cliche that there’s no such thing as atheism. Atheists, Rog tells us, know in their hearts that God exists, they just choose to ignore him. As a result, Rog has little time for atheism. (I discovered Roger’s wonderfully smug site through Bruce Gerenscer’s excellent one.)

Rog says that if we want to see what this heart-implanted God looks like, then we shouldn’t look to the Old Testament and the tribal warlord we find there – goodness me, no; we can safely discard him! That God just doesn’t match up to our twenty-first century sensibilities. No, if we want to see God then what we must do is look at Jesus, for in Jesus we see what God is really like.

Oops! We’re right back at the problem I’ve been discussing these last few posts: just which Jesus are we talking about? There are so many. There’s the Jesus of the synoptic gospels (though he’s neither consistent nor pleasant), who is nothing like the self-obsessed Jesus of John’s gospel. Paul’s Christ is different again; he’s a complete invention, much like the Jesus of Hebrews who has morphed into a Jewish High Priest. The Jesus of Revelation meanwhile is an Evil Mutant straight out of the Marvel Universe, what with swords coming out of his mouth and all. So which Jesus has Rog got in mind? I think we should be told.

There are so many discrepancies in the various interpretations of Jesus in the New Testament, that it’s hard to see a clear, consistent picture of anything, let alone God, in such a shifting kaleidoscope of images. I’ve recommend that Rog should take atheism a little more seriously; the often incompatible Jesuses of the bible don’t reveal ‘the true nature of God’ anywhere as clearly as he claims. I’d go further: none of them show – can possibly show – what the non-existent is ‘really’ like. What they reveal instead are ideas about a God and a saviour made entirely in the image of the men who tasked themselves with creating them.

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Atheists and Agnostics

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This is how a god-botherer managed to make a fool of himself recently in the i, a national UK newspaper.

Agnostics and Atheists

It is misleading for Gwilyn Hughes to put atheism and agnosticism together as if they are the same two varieties of the same genre: they are worlds apart.

‘The fool has said in his heart, there is no God’ – the old psalm is right, for the atheist is a fool.

He ignores the thousands of centuries of human thought and experience to put all his trust in the tiny fragment of the present, embracing the myth of inevitable human progress.

The agnostic, on the other contrary, is wise: he considers everything including the present and concludes that, with the believer, its existence is unproven as its non-existence.

John Toy,

Scarborough

I sent the following reply:

As an atheist, I was interested to read that, according to Mr Toy, I ignore ‘all the thousands of centuries of human thought’ and embrace ‘the myth of inevitable human progress.’ Clearly, I’m failing as an atheist as I do neither and nor do most other atheists. Nonetheless, I’m grateful to be set on the right track by Mr Toy, who, I’m guessing from his quoting one of the bible’s most ignorant verses (oh, what choice there is!) is a Christian.

In fact, I regard myself as both an atheist, which means I see no evidence of a personal loving god and therefore ‘believe’ accordingly, and an agnostic. I do not know if there is some sort of deity ‘out there’ that gets on with his/her/its life with neither interest in, nor involvement with, the inhabitants of this planet. I doubt it, but as the possibility exists, I can only be agnostic on the subject.

I have to say I’m surprised that a national newspaper in a largely secular country allows those promoting belief in a god, however tenuously, to do so in its pages. I do hope it won’t happen again.

Pride & Prejudice

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Ken Ham took a swipe at Gay Prides recently on his crackpot Answers in Genesis. He didn’t, for once, harp on at length on about how sinful same-sex everything is (if it’s same sex, it’s sinful) but takes the perspective that because Prides involve the word ‘pride’ they are prideful – and that, my friends, is a sin too! This remarkable insight allows the Hamster to gay bash from a completely different angle, though predictably the result is the same. LGBTQ people are lost in sin, and it’s a double whammy; they don’t just wallow in their sexual sin but in pride too, and, my, how God hates both of those!

In the context of Gay Pride, ‘pride’ doesn’t quite mean what ol’ Kenny thinks it does. He takes his definition from some esoteric evangelical dictionary that defines pride as “both a disposition/attitude and a type of conduct,” which according to Ham boils down to that old chestnut, Rebellion Against God, which, he says epitomises gay people.

As usual, he’s wrong. What Gay Pride represents, in both its public and personal forms, is gay people’s rejection of any shame imposed by others about who they are and their refusal to remain hidden; not so much pride but joy, liberation and self-assertion. I’ve been to one or two Prides myself and these have been their predominant characteristics. They reflect the exhilaration gay people feel about being themselves and escaping from the constrictions of the closet. For many, this can be a long and difficult journey, as it was for me. Gay people have every reason to be pleased with who they are and what they’ve achieved and Gay Prides are a way of declaring this self-acceptance, self-esteem and, yes, love – to their communities, city and the world.

‘Pride’ of this sort is no sin (neither is any other, because there’s no such thing as ‘sin’) but other kinds of pride – say, Donald Trump’s arrogance and bluster – are particularly distasteful. Thank goodness Christians don’t suffer from that sorts of pride!

They don’t for example, think they’re superior to the unsaved and especially to LGBTQ people. if they did, they’d spend their time judging everyone else and finding them lacking. They’d lambast gay folks and suggest they should cured or silenced or even executed. They’d disparage atheists, sceptics and unbelievers at every turn. Thank God Christians don’t demonstrate this sort of pride!

Praise the Lord they don’t think they somehow merit living forever! What a relief they don’t think a magic trick of God’s is going to make that possible because, really, they don’t deserve to die; there’s something about them that is worth preserving forever. Thank goodness they can see that this life is all there is and the little bundle of hopes, fears, neuroses and prejudices that make up most of us, don’t really merit unlimited continuation. To think that really would be prideful!

Hallelujah that Christians don’t think the particular brand of mumbo-jumbo they subscribe to is the only one true religion. If they did, they’d spend their time disputing with one another about who’s right and who’s apostate, misguided and deceived by the devil. Praise Lucifer we don’t see pride like this emanating from Christians everywhere!

So, one last message for Kenny and those who put down others, or call them out on their ‘pride’:

Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye (Matthew 7.1-5).

And if you think you have removed that log from your own eye – isn’t that just another manifestation of, well… pride?

Smash! Kill! Destroy!

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So how has the great God of Reason done so far?

We’re still not out of Genesis and he’s –

Trashed his entire creation just because a couple who didn’t know how touchy he is managed to upset him;

Destroyed two towns and almost everyone in them because he found the locals offensive;

Drowned everyone in existence (except for an old piss-head and his family) because – you guessed it – they offended him;

Engineered a spot of child-abuse;

Decided the best way for people to show him they’re his bestest buddies is to have them disfigure their genitals.

Now, honestly, Christians, how can you say any of this is rational or logical, reasonable or considered? Your God’s response to everything is Smash! Kill! Mutilate! Destroy! – never as a last resort, always as his first reaction. He’s the Hulk, Godzilla and ISIS all rolled into one. Not once does he apply reason or logic. Smash! Kill! Mutilate! Destroy! And not only in Genesis but throughout the Old Testament:

His chums want the land occupied by other tribes? Smash! Kill! Destroy!

They don’t show him enough love? Smash! Kill! Destroy!

They break one or other of his mostly petty rules? Smash! Kill! Destroy!

They offend him in some remarkably trivial way (collecting sticks, teasing a bald bloke, doing sex wrong)? Smash! Kill! Destroy!

Over and over again.

Until, at last, he has another big idea! Another Master Plan! The Master Plan to end all Master Plans! (His fourth at least.) And guess what? It’s all Smash! Kill! Destroy! Especially Kill! This is a dude who really can’t think outside the box.

Here’s how it goes: the Lord gives up on his previous Master Plan, which he’d told some selected desert marauders was forever and ever, and decides its time to have another go at sorting out mankind that he helped screw-up in the first place. His idea this time is to come to Earth himself as a sort of clone, which he creates by raping a young woman, just like all the other gods of old. When he grows up this clone/avatar tells everyone how God wants them to behave so they don’t upset the version still in Heaven quite so much. The clone then gets himself murdered at the hands of the very people he’s come to visit – the same ones the Lord promised to take care of forever and ever in his previous Master Plan – which magically allows anyone who repeats a special incantation to join an exclusive club. Everyone else he plans to torture and murder for all eternity, because that’s what he likes doing best. Of course, the version of himself he sends to Earth won’t actually make any of this clear – that’ll be left to someone else to make up afterwards – but, in the best illusion yet, he’ll come back to life before beaming up to Heaven to cosy up to his other self, the one preoccupied with death, destruction and mutilation.

This time it’s foolproof: a well-thought through, logical, rational and reasonable plan.

Except… not really. It’s bullshit. There’s no reasoning here, just a lot of stuff made up as people went along. None of it makes sense. The copy seems to have no idea what’s going on and certainly no inkling that his death has cosmic significance. On top of that, no-one really knows how the magic works – everyone who mentions it has a different idea – and the record of it all is scrappily cobbled together donkeys’ years after it all was supposed to have happened. Still, the main thing is it all involves a lot of killing – the clone first; then the poor sap manipulated into ‘betraying’ him; a couple who don’t want to give away all their belongings; some of the dudes who believe the magic is for real then, after they’ve really pissed off the Romans, lots more of them and finally, once the nutjobs get the upper hand, loads and loads of other people – which must really have pleased the God of Death Reason.

If this is the best he can do, then we’re in trouble deep. If our ability to reason comes from him, as Christians claim, it’s no wonder we can be irrational, illogical, unreasonable and unreasoning. Which of course is why he is, because he’s a reflection of the beings  that created him – us. Human emotions and cognitive capabilities came first and were projected onto the gods we created, including, eventually, the monotheistic monster, Yahweh. It was he primitive tribesmen decided must be responsible for natural disasters and the brevity and brutality of life. Such things had to be punishments, hadn’t they? And if punishments, then there had to be One doing the punishing. One who must be appeased if he was ever to stop. Hence sacrifices, behaving in ways that might please him, killing those who don’t, worship. All futile, like pleading with one’s own reflection in a mirror.

The God created by this kind of thinking only reflected back at his makers the worst of themselves; jealousy, anger, intolerance, belligerence, petulance, vengefulness and violence. Hardly ever Reason. 

And so does he still.

 

The God of Reason

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The next three posts will look at the claim Christians make for their God being the God of Reason. The fact that he is, they say, demonstrates how inconsistent those who see no evidence for a deity are when we use his very attributes – reason, logic and rationality – to make a case against him. Here’s Dr Jason Lisle on Answers In Genesis:

…there is an absolute standard for reasoning; we are to pattern our thoughts after God’s. The laws of logic are a reflection of the way God thinks… Laws of logic are God’s standard for thinking. Since God is an unchanging, sovereign, immaterial Being, the laws of logic are abstract, universal, invariant entities. In other words, they are not made of matter—they apply everywhere and at all times. Laws of logic are contingent upon God’s unchanging nature. And they are necessary for logical reasoning. Thus, rational reasoning would be impossible without the biblical God.

The materialistic atheist can’t have laws of logic. He believes that everything that exists is material—part of the physical world. But laws of logic are not physical… The atheist’s view cannot be rational because he uses things (laws of logic) that cannot exist according to his (Godless viewpoint).

Similarly, Tim Keller in his book The Reason for God argues that the fact humans can reason is evidence both of God’s existence (because reason has to come from somewhere) and of our being made in his image.

According to Christians then, God is the only reason we can think rationally at all.

But then where did God’s rationality come from? Is he pure reason or is reason an attribute he acquired or evolved over time as we did? As Richard Dawkins has pointed out, the only reasoning intelligence we know of is our own, and it is the product of evolution. If God’s ability to reason also evolved – and we know of no other way it could have developed – then he must intially have been incomplete. He could not have been the supreme intelligence Christians claim he is now. If, on the other hand, God is and always has been pure reason, there should be plenty of evidence for it. Let’s take look:

We first encounter God in the opening chapters of Genesis, where he puts two naked humans in a garden and tells them not to eat the fruit of a tree labelled ‘The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil’.* He sets this tree right where they can see it and then he leaves. The two people, who have no concept of right and wrong (that’s the point of the tree) each take a bite of its fruit. While taking his evening stroll in the garden, God discovers what they’ve done and is not best pleased. (I hope you’re getting just how logical all of this is.**)

This deity, who, according to Dr Lisle and Tim Keller is the epitome of logical reasoning, doesn’t then take the trouble to explain to his creations, ‘Look, I’m sorry I made you without a sense of right and wrong; I’ll put that right. But you’ve got to promise me you’ll do as I say from now on because you won’t like me when I’m angry.’ No, he doesn’t do this; instead he throws a hissy fit. He punishes the couple, who until they’d tried the fruit had no idea disobeying him was wrong, and, just for good measure, he trashes the rest of Creation too – forever. Because of a single act committed by two naive individuals who didn’t know any better, he ruins everything and then, irrationally, blames the humans for the mess he’s made. That’s his reasoned, reasonable and rational response to their upsetting him – which, if he was the omniscient being Christians tell us he is, he’d have known was going to happen anyway.

Of course the whole set up and God’s reactions are not rational, reasonable or logical at all. They’re not considered, proportionate or insightful either. The God of Reason, the God who is Reason according to Answers in Genesis and Tim Keller, scores on this, his first outing, zero points on the scale of reasoned, reasoning reasonableness.

Maybe though God was just having an off day and he improves later on, once his intelligence has evolved a bit more. We’ll find out next time.

 

* All my examples of God’s great thinking skills and ‘reasonableness’ are drawn from the Bible; there are, however, simply too many to reference throughout this series of posts. I would be happy to supply them to any who feel the need to see them.

** Yes, I’m aware it’s a myth but a) many Christians don’t and b) even as a myth the story seeks to address how humans became alienated from God, ironically by developing the capacity to think for themselves. 

 

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.

 

 

Silence of Mind

ThinkerThe anonymous blogger over on Silence of Mind, (we’ll call him ‘SoM’) is arguing that Christianity is responsible for Western civilisation. He does so even though others have pointed out to him that the essential elements of a civilised society – democracy, the rule of law, moral codes, mathematics, scientific enquiry, medicine, education, art, literature and architecture – were all evident in human societies millennia before Christianity emerged.

SoM goes further, however, insisting that Western culture owes its existence solely to Christianity. He doesn’t demonstrate how this is so; he is content to assert that it is. He is, of course, confusing correlation with causation, failing to recognise that Christianity’s involvement in the development of Western society does not mean it was the cause.

Having reach this insupportable conclusion, SoM makes an even greater leap of faith by declaring that because the Christian faith created civilisation as we know it – we’ll ignore, as he does, the church’s suppression of so much that is integral to a civilised society during the ‘dark ages’ – then Jesus must therefore be God. Here’s how he puts it:

1. Jesus established the Christian religion.

2. Christianity became the religion that spawned Western Civilization.

3. Western Civilization is the only civilization in human history to have developed modern science.

4. Modern science proved the existence of God

5. Since only God can reveal God, Jesus of Nazareth must be God.

So wrong in every respect:

1. Jesus did not establish the Christian religion. Paul did.

2. Christianity did not spawn Western civilisation (see above).

3. Western civilisation is not the only one to have developed science, and where it has emerged has often been in spite of religion, not because of it.

4. Science certainly has not ‘proved’ the existence of God. It has no interest in the so-called ‘supernatural’ nor, indeed, in ‘proving’ anything. It is significant that none of the explanations science has arrived at require the involvement of a god.

5. ‘Since only God can reveal God, Jesus of Nazareth must be God’ is a non-sequitur; it doesn’t follow from anything that has gone before, as flawed as all of the previous assertions are. What SoM is claiming here is that because “1, 2, 3 and 4 are the case (though I have failed to demonstrate they are and in fact they are not), then A must equal B”.

In the end, SoM’s ‘argument’ is the same as saying that because there is a place called Greece, Zeus must really exist. Or because there are tea-shops, we can be certain Bertrand Russell’s teapot is orbiting the sun, forever just out of sight.

As proof of the divinity of Jesus, the argument from the scientific and cultural achievements of the West has to be one of the worst. All arguments (and SoM’s assertions can hardly lay claim to the term) that attempt to demonstrate how an abrasive, inconsistent zealot from a Palestinian backwater was secretly the God of the Universe are equally worthless while God himself remains unproven, as he always must.

This is why believing anything about him and about Jesus’ supposed divinity is called ‘faith’. If it were possible to prove the things held on faith, then faith wouldn’t be necessary. But it is, because believing the impossible and the unprovable can only be managed by by-passing and, yes, silencing the mind’s critical faculties.