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02 September 2002 @ 06:48 pm
They eat their God!  
Considering some recent conversions among people close to me, I've decided to start putting some thought into why I feel the way I do about Christianity. On one level, I do see a certain similarity and continuity between religions, although not to the degree most Wiccans seem to. I see belief as more of a means to an end than an end in itself.

On another level, Christianity REALLY bothers me. It gets my hackles up in a way no other religion on this planet does. I will be thinking about this a lot more, but even just off the top of my head I can come up with this list of problems.

1. I am inherently mistrustful of any religion with a built-in viral memetic component; any religion with an impetus to evangelize. This is a large part of the reason I never participated in any of the "mission" work or "mission trips" when I was going to King's High School.

2. The God in the Bible doesn't seem like a being I can respect, much less worship. From arbitrary, inflexible laws demanding blood sacrifice for any minor transgression to the scapegoat system, a lot of the dogmas at the core of Christianity seem morally unacceptable to me, and seem irreconcilable with the concept of a benevolent God.

3. My mind strains at the concept of an omnipotent, omniscient, benevolent God. It's a lot easier for me to believe any two of those qualities at any given time. When I do make myself believe all three, it's such a mental strain that I feel like there's not enough of me left to derive any comfort or purpose from the belief. I can hold it short-term (my record was a few months, back when my sister and I wanted to be baptized together a few years ago), but the strain invariably gets to me and then snaps, badly.

Of these, I think #2 is the most serious issue for me. Of course, there is a variety of minor issues (I hate praise music and Christian Rock), but most of those could be worked around if it wasn't for the Major Issues.
TW Bruhn: ApeStyle (Sad...)apestyle on September 2nd, 2002 09:07 pm (UTC)
I agree...
My sister converted to Catholicism after years of quasi-agnosticism (or more likely plain indifference), I was a bit shocked and put out. Some core beliefs of Christianity seem pretty basic and without too much illogic...but there is too much torture, genocide, plain ole murder, rape, murder, and meanness for me to believe in the benevolent spin on Christianity. Too much blood in the name of the Lord makes my stomach churn.
St. Sean the Amused: Shadow daemonseanb on September 2nd, 2002 09:54 pm (UTC)
Re: I agree...
I'm willing to forgive a lot of the post-Biblical crimes against humanity in God's name as flaws in implementation. Giving the nature of humanity, I think a lot of that crap would have happened in one form or another regardless of ideology.

My problem is more with sickening ideas in the core dogma, although the Bible does itself have ample examples of inhumane acts commited in God's name. Psalm 137 still makes me particularly sick:

"Blessed is he who takes your babies and smashes them against the rocks!"
Musings with no Musejenny_sparks on September 3rd, 2002 12:04 pm (UTC)
Re: I agree...
I think that while it is a tragedy of a line in the Bible it is worse taken out of context as you have. War is horrible! This is a statement about war, it is a blessing from the author of the psalm not a quote from God. The author is talking of the war against Babylon, and how those who fight it are blessed. Back then woment and children were not spared in war... heck now women and children are not spared in war.
I know it is terrible that cruel acts are commited in the name of a benevolent God, but they are the acts of man. Man not too terribly great, that is why we sin so much and needed God to make the sacrafice He did. People do things in the name of others to obsolve themselves of the reality/guilt of their actions sometimes... people do things in the name of a friend that they wouldn't do for themselves. We can't blame God for what people do.

St. Sean the Amused: Shadow daemonseanb on September 3rd, 2002 12:47 pm (UTC)
Re: I agree...
How was my quote taken out of context? Tim and I were discussing atrocities committed by humans in God's name. Choosing a verse from a Psalm about war seems perfectly appropriatte and in context.

I agree with you wholeheartedly that this kind of abomination is a result of human nature, not of God. I don't blame "God" for the evils of men; I blame "God" for the evils of "God".

"Man not too terribly great, that is why we sin so much and needed God to make the sacrafice He did." Perhaps you can explain to me why this sacrifice was needed? That's just about the only part of your comment where I don't follow you.
Musings with no Musejenny_sparks on September 3rd, 2002 02:29 pm (UTC)
Re: I agree...
The reason I felt your comment was out of context is the rest of the psalm shows that it is a statement by a man regarding a war with the Babylonians. Your quote is made starkly with no reference to the text it came from.

In the old Testament God had rules so that we could try to free ourselves from sin. God never asked us to sacrafice. We offered it up, in Genesis 4. Once it became a rule of man we saw sacrafice as giving God 10% of our labors. I see it differently, I think God wants us to work at least 10% for him either through charity or mission work, but that is my interpretation. I can see points where I could not understand the purpose of God's request but never once have I seen reference to God being evil.

Sacrafice was an idea of man, it became the way we gave to God to glorify him. But man could not follow God's rules, I don't know a single person that has kept all 10 commandments... and God loved us so much that He didn't want to be separated from us or to see us damned enternally. So He gave His son to us, and following God's plan, Jesus laid down his life for all of us, knowing each of our sins and dieing for them, because the penalty of sin is death. Jesus took that death for us, with our sins he took upon himself.

The main reason I believe the sacrafice was needed was because God is perfect and good in all ways. If you are perfect and good you cannot be around sin. All people are sinners and so we needed to be cleansed from our sin in order to be able to dwell with God. Therefore Jesus cleansed us all with His death so that we might live.

St. Sean the Amused: kermitseanb on September 3rd, 2002 04:21 pm (UTC)
Re: I agree...
I referenced that the text was from Psalms. Given the nature of Psalms and the context of my conversation with Tim, I considered it obvious that the quote was the words of a human encouraging atrocities in the name of God.

"God never asked us to sacrifice." And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham, and said unto him, Abraham: and he said, Behold, [here] I [am]. And he said, Take now thy son, thine only [son] Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of. " Genesis 22:1-2.
Of course, in this example, God chose to spare Isaac last minute. This was just a test of obedience, in the manner of cult leaders and abusive parents the world over.

It's interesting that you mention Genesis 4, since the Bible never explains WHY Abel's animal sacrifice of "the firstlings of his flock and the fat thereof" was favored over Cain's sacrifice of "the fruit of the earth". For me, the simplest explanation is that God is bloodthirsty.

I'm not complaining about tithing; my problem is the belief that the wages of "sin" is death, in conjunction with the belief that this death can be transferred to another living being, whether it be a sacrificial lamb, a scapegoat, or the "son of God". To me it seems that this idea, at the very core of Christianity, is a clear demonstration of an unjust God obsessed with making sure we follow the letter of his arbitrary law, without any concern for real justice. The way I understand the Bible, God basically says "Do what I say, because I say so. If you cross me - even once - I will lock you in the fucking basement forever. The only way to appease me is to show me blood and death, but it doesn't have to be yours." I reserve the right to judge my Gods, and have found this one wanting. I will not worship somebody who acts like the abusive stepfather of all of humanity.

If you are perfect and good you cannot be around sin. Why not? Why does perfect holiness imply you cannot be around anybody less holy than yourself? That's another theological point I would have a great deal of difficulty swallowing.

Jesus cleansed us all with his death so that we might live. How is his death cleansing? Did he pay a price of blood sacrifice demanded by an archaic, unjust law? Did his death somehow confuse God, so that he couldn't detect our sinful pasts any more? Please, explain to me why the crucifixion was required by an omnipotent, omniscient, benevolent God.
Musings with no Musejenny_sparks on September 3rd, 2002 09:05 pm (UTC)
Re: I agree...
Sean there is so much that I can show you to give you knowledge of God's Love... but in this forum we are going to go back and forth forever. If you ever want to discuss it come to me and we can talk about it.

St. Sean the Amused: Shadow daemonseanb on September 3rd, 2002 10:14 pm (UTC)
Re: I agree...
Personally, I am far more comfortable in this kind of communication, when I can think over every point and carefully consider my response. In person discussions about this seem to rapidly degenerate into emotional apppeals and ad hominem arguments.

I'm sorry you feel you can't convince me of the love of your God purely by rational arguments, but I wasn't really asking to be convinced. At this point I was just trying to clarify to myself the reasons why christianity is, in my eyes, the least appealing of several options.
Musings with no Musejenny_sparks on September 4th, 2002 10:22 am (UTC)
Re: I agree...
Sean, I don't wish to argue and it isn't that I can't show you my love of God in this format. To me the internet is impersonal and the learning and exploring of religion is very personal. I have never been comfortable talking about important subjects through this medium.... that is why I don't post a lot of very personal things.

I can deeply consider and reflect on personal interaction and I have not had the negative experiences you have had with it getting too heated.

I understand that you are uncomfortable with this so I won't go any further.