So, in my travels (without ever leaving my comfy seat) I’ve come across Evangelical Outpost, which seems as good a place as any to rest.
One of the major objections to Christianity raised by some atheists is that the God of the Bible does not seem to be a good God. In contrast to the popular portrayals of a benign and merciful Jesus who loves everyone, God (the Father) seems wrathful and angry.
I sat through several bible stories as a kid. It was a necessary part of the night’s ritual if I spent the night at my cousin’s, and a portion of Religion class each day must have been given over to something bible related, even though I only have dim recollections of it. It was the one class my parents didn’t care about in terms of grades. There may have been parables of the good Samaritan kind involved.
So, here’s the thing. Kids are introduced to the bible early on, given cutsy stories about Jesus and David and Goliath (which I do remember my uncle reading) and Jonah and the Whale and whatever else. Stories. Bedtime stories about how god is love, yadda yadda. Fine and dandy.
I wonder how many of those kids ever get around to studying the bible — not in terms of “here’s what this verse might mean today” but “Here’s what that verse likely meant when it was written.”
Hasn’t the concept of what people need from a god changed over the centuries? Isn’t that partially why the early books have such a vengeful, wrathful “I will smite your enemies, follow only me dammit!” feel to them? A jealous, angry god who’ll destroy all those who stand in the way of his chosen people. I should read more history of those ancient Hebrews to see just what kind of life they were stuck with back then. You know the history behind Passover? Bottom line, it’s a celebration of God’s massacre of the Egyptians. They weren’t God’s chosen people, so hooray, mark every house that has a Jewish family inside and let God kill the first born kids in every Egyptian family. Yay! What a great story, Dad! Tell another one!
People who really care about understanding “God’s wrath” here look at the history of how families slept, where first born kids slept in high class Egyptian homes and what the likelihood was that some natural killer like carbon monoxide might have killed those kids. There could be grain of reality in this god story. They may not have known the actual cause so they had to give their God the credit for all that death. Whether or not you want to believe James Cameron, at least it illustrates a desire to get to the bottom of things, rather than just take the story and pass it on as proof god exists. That’s not proof. That’s just an example of belief based on a bothersome lack of information. Face on Mars garbage.
Nothing epitomizes this wrathful attitude more than Hell. The idea that a good God could willingly send anyone to a place of eternal punishment is unthinkable to the atheist.
It should be unthinkable to a Christian as well, I’d think. Why can they rationalize this behaviour? How do they justify it as being the right thing to do? Just because it’s a god doing it? Doesn’t seem like a good enough reason to me.
The corollary to this moral objection against the character of God Himself is an objection to the potential actions of those who believe in this deity. It is alleged by many atheists that religious people in general, and Christians in particular, are prone to acts of violence, bigotry, and a host of other morally objectionable things because they follow a wrathful God who promotes an “us versus them” mentality. Between the crusades and the inquisition by Christians, and holy wars and terrorism by Muslims, it is supposed that monotheists are quite dangerous indeed.
They can be, but to say they all are based on the actions of a few is an untrue statement and should be challenged as a prejudiced stereotype. I don’t know kind of God those violent bigots pray to. It doesn’t seem to be the same one regular friendly religious people pray to, and yet both parties will call that deity God. Is there more than one? Same goes for everyone who claims to have a personal relationship with Christ, yet everyone seems to wind up with contradictory ideas of what Jesus would do or say in any given situation.
I will leave the question of God’s character for another time. Here I would simply like to address the charge that Christians are potentially more dangerous than non-religious folk because they follow a “wrathful” God (I place wrathful in scare quotes not because God is not wrathful, but because wrath is by no means His only, or even his primary attribute).
On the surface this seems like a reasonable charge. God is said to hate sin, and because He is just and holy He will punish unbelievers for all eternity. If we as believers are to be like God, surely it is good and praiseworthy for us to engage in the punishment of unbelievers on this earth? If unbelievers take over Washington, why not stage a crusade to take back the nation for Christ?
He then goes to quote Paul and his statement that God will do the judging after everyone kicks it (Romans 12:19) so humans shouldn’t be doing the judging ever at all. After all, what if vengeance is wrought on an unbeliever person who could have become Christian later? Now it’s too late to save him and,
Such a scenario shows the folly of religious war. Second, humans are fallen. Many times we may claim to be seeking only impartial justice for some wrong done, but in reality our motives are tainted by personal bias and sinful desire.
God, on the other hand, has perfect knowledge and his judgments are not tainted by sin. So it only makes sense that we would be counseled to refrain from making such judgments and attempting to do God’s work for Him. Instead, we should wait in humility (even when suffering unjust persecution) for God’s perfect justice.
Tell that to the goombahs who waste money on stupid lawsuits over pins and necklaces. I don’t like the smug attitude idea though, that you’ll all sit there smiling inwardly as us heathens line up for our after death firewalk. How kind and loving of you. Oh, but that’s why there’s such a push to convert everyone all the damn time. You really think we have to be saved from something we’re sure is all made up. Why is it all made up? Because someone somewhere decided it was easier to control people who are told personal bias and desire are sins…