What has God ever done for us?

Noah

Back in my Christian days, I used to sing a hymn with a line that went ‘give and give and give again what God has given thee’. It was a fine if largely ignored sentiment – like those of similar nature demanded by Jesus – but I was reminded of it recently on hearing for the umpteenth time of just how much God has given us.

Join me in taking a look around to see.

Everything around me here in the room is… well, not to put too fine a point on it, man-made, that is devised, created, crafted and manufactured by human beings. No supernatural intervention appears to be have been required in the creation of the technology you and I are currently using, nor in the creature comforts that surround me: the chair I’m sitting on, the cushions, the clothes that are keeping me warm this cold winter’s day, the glasses I’m wearing that enable me to see properly (and have done since I was a young child), the carpet that keeps my feet from bare boards, the boards themselves, the house that they’re part of. No god was involved in the making of these things and the many more conveniences that make life in the Western world as comfortable as it is. You name it, humans made it.

It’s true that many of these items utilise natural resources – wood, cotton and so on – but the cultivation of these is again the result of human effort. There’s a clue too in the name of such materials – ‘natural’. Nature produces them, which as Darwin made plain 150 years ago, does not require any god pulling any strings behind the scenes.

The same applies to our bodies; they are the product of natural processes. I was created by my parents who in turn were created by theirs and so back to a time before any of us were human; no god was steering the direction of evolution, nor, despite what Ken Ham thinks were we created as we are today in six days. And when our bodies let us down, as they inevitably do? Even the most ardent among us do not depend on god’s willingness to heal us – he is, as in so many other respects, notoriously unreliable – we go instead to the physician and the surgeon, to medicine and technologies; in short we turn to other human beings and the creations of human beings; we turn to science. The vast majority of Christians do this too, which says much about their faith in an Almighty who can work wonders (but doesn’t). When the chips are down they don’t, as Ham puts it, reject the ‘foolish ways of man’, but turn to the skills and provision of their fellow men and women. They help far more than – infinitely more than – any imaginary god.

So it is with ideologies, philosophies and religions; they too are human inventions, everyone of them. In the West we enjoy the benefits of living in capitalist democracies with their attendant conveniences and freedoms. No god-on-high handed down such systems. Jesus was rabidly opposed to riches and wealth and there was nothing democratic about his intention to be king of the world.

Everything we have, from our ideologies and morality to science and technologies we  created ourselves; no god was involved. The messes we’ve made too; these are our responsibility, from the damage we’ve inflicted on the environment and the climate to the wars we seem endlessly to engage in and the often often appallling way we treat each other. We are culpable. No god is going to come down from heaven to right these wrongs. No god ever has; we have to sort things out ourselves. That has always been the case and always will be.

If it’s not, then those who of you who promote a god need to show him to the rest of us. Show us your god – not through the actions of human beings because those are just that, the actions of human beings. Show us something your god made that is not better explained as a product of nature or of human beings themselves. Provide evidence of your Christ, his angels and his heaven that is more than the delusion shard by you and your co-religionists; show us that they are beings with an existence independent of the human mind.

You can’t, you say, because that’s not the way of spirituality, not the way of a transcendent god.

How very convenient.

 

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And another three things…

Following on from last time’s post, here, below the picture, are some more points I hold to be true.Image

Human behaviour, not sin.
There is no such thing as sin and we don’t need God’s forgiveness for it. Sin is a Christian construct with no purchase in the real world. There is only human behaviour – good, bad and indifferent. Most of it is indifferent (or neutral if you like) including what consenting adults may do with each other sexually. Some of it is good, in the sense that it benefits others significantly; some of it is bad – evil even – because of the harm it causes others. None of it is offensive to God, because there isn’t a God, and none of it is forgiven by him for the same reason. We are moral or not, without the assistance of a God. This seems to me to be self-evident: if there is no God and yet we are capable of behaving morally then any goodness cannot come from him. Similarly, immoral behaviour, of which the religious are as capable as the rest of us, is also entirely human.

We can draw two conclusions from this:

  1. No sin = nothing to be saved from = no redemption.

  2. The Christian claim that because atheists don’t acknowledge God they have no grounds for behaving morally is demonstrably false. The golden rule of ‘do unto others…’ is of value to us as social animals, which is why it pre-dates Jesus by millennia. Non-believers are as capable of behaving morally as believers, and sometimes a darn-sight better.

It is impossible to know the future.
No-one can know the future. The same Christians who castigate scientists for not being there when the Earth came into existence, have the temerity to claim they know what will happen at some indeterminate time in the future. There will be, they tell us, an anti-Christ, a rapture and Jesus will return from Heaven. They cannot know this of course, even if their holy book seems to predict it. It too was created by human beings with no more ability to read the future as anyone else. People have long wished they could tell what the future holds, which is why fortune tellers, astrologers, priests who read auspices, oracles and prophets have been with us throughout history. They’ve never been right, except by chance, for the simple expedient that humans are not gifted with accurate foresight. Biblical prophecies are no exception and have already failed, as we’ll see in future postings.

(Scientists do of course predict what the consequences of certain actions might be, but scientific predictions are subject to amendment as more information becomes available and are always open to refutation. They are not in the same category as prophecies purportedly from a deity who doesn’t actually exist.)

We are all humanists.
We are all utterly reliant on other human beings, not God, to help us fulfil our needs. Believers do not turn to God when they are hungry, because if they did they would starve (in spite of what Jesus says in Matthew 6.25). They don’t turn to him when they are ill, but look to medical science to help them (yes, there are a small minority of extremists who, because of faith in God and the likes of Mark 16.18, let their children die. But most believers don’t; they have faith in other humans, in science and technology). Christians and believers of all stripes demonstrate their faith, not in God but in human endeavours every time they get dressed, put on spectacles, catch a bus, board a plane, buy a house, switch on a computer, television or oven, use a phone, listen to music, admire art and marvel at architecture. None of this is God-given, it is all human, and believers, whatever else they may claim, are all humanists at heart, having far more faith in the human than the divine.