Gault's Gulch

April 14, 2010

God Seems a Little Petty.

Filed under: Uncategorized — John Gault @ 9:28 am
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Alright…I know that this is two religion posts in a row.  I promise, next time around, it’s back to politics.  In the meantime, however, I want to address a particular aspect of Christianity which has been bugging me.  It seems to me, that the criteria by which admission into that eternal Club-Med, Heaven, is judged, is a little off-kilter.

Let’s take atheism off the table for the time being.  Let’s just assume that Christianity, above all the many other religions of the world–past and present–is correct and the Bible is, in fact, the instruction book for life, death, and the hereafter.  Most people don’t talk about the fact that, even then, one still has a decision to make.  Given the teachings of Christianity, is the God of the Bible a god worthy of our love and worship? 

In addressing this issue, one could easily take pot-shots at the more horrific stories of the Bible.  The Old Testament, especially, is rife with examples of cruelty, misogyny, sanctioned slavery, racism, infidelity, murder, torture, etc.  But let’s face it–Heaven is the prize.  Just like those who follow Allah are counting the days until they get their 72 virgins, Christians plod through life and the rituals of their religion with the understanding that they will, eventually, be rewarded for their good behavior with the blessings of Heaven.  So, let’s even ignore the questionable teachings of the Bible and concentrate solely on the price of admission into the cosmos’ most bitchin’ nightclub–Heaven.  Consider these two potential residents of Studio 54 in the Sky…

First, we have Dave.  He’s generally a good guy.  He doesn’t steal.  He doesn’t lie (aside from the occasional “No, honey. Those jeans most definitely do not make you look fat.).  He cares about those around him and does his best to help those in genuine need.  He respects his parents and rather than get jealous of those around him who have more wealth or convenience than he does, he’s happy for their good fortune and grateful for those things that he DOES have.  All in all, Dave’s a good guy.  He pays his taxes, he works hard, he loves his family and he tries to avoid hurting the other guy.  Oh yeah, Dave’s an atheist.  He’s not agnostic.  He’s not buddhist.  He doesn’t belong to the wrong sect of Christianity.  He adamantly and willfully denies the existence of any God whatsoever based on his intellectual need for proof which, he feels, has never been met.  Dave holds this point of view until he dies at age 90 in his sleep.

Now, let’s meet Jeffrey.  Jeffrey lives most of his life as a real a-hole.  He believes in God, but like a lot of people, he doesn’t let that belief stand in the way of doing and taking what he wants.  In his twenties and thirties, Jeffrey steals cars, assaults little old ladies, forges checks–he even robbed a gas station at gun point while wearing a crucifix around his neck.  In his forties, Jeffrey spends some time in prison where he sells drugs, gets in fights, and even kills another prisoner in the shower.  In short, Jeffrey is a lousy Christian.  Jeffrey is jealous of others and spends his life pouting that “they’re no better than I am”.  He wastes 90% of his life in a squalor of crime, drugs, and hurting those around him.  Then Jeffrey gets lung cancer at age 50.  It progresses pretty fast and by 52,  Jeffrey knows he doesn’t have much time left.  He decides to reacquaint himself with God.  He reads the Bible and decides that he shouldn’t have done all those terrible things he did when he was younger.  It doesn’t even occur to Jeffrey that the last time he was out of bed, he smacked his wife across the face and that now, while he’s unable to move around freely, he’s really incapable of committing very much evil even if he wanted to.  No, Jeffrey has come to Jesus.  He’s sorry for the life he’s led.  He asks Jesus for forgiveness.  He says penitence, or he confesses, or whatever ritual your particular brand of Christianity demands in these circumstances.  By his last days, Jeffrey has made his peace with God.

Who goes to Heaven?  Every Christian that I’ve ever discussed this situation with has reluctantly agreed that Dave can’t go to heaven because he denies the existence of God.  They say that one can pick the wrong flavor of Christianity, or even pick another religion all together–but one must believe in God–in some form–and fear him (or love him) in order to get the golden ticket.  These same Christians also tell me that Jeffrey gets a pass.  Jesus, apparently, paid upfront for all the crap that we, as a people, can get into during our lives by dying on the cross.  All we have to do to repay him is worship him.  Jeffrey lived a life of pain, cruelty, and debauchery, but he made the appropriate pleas for forgiveness before the eleventh-hour and he truly meant them…So Jeffrey’s cool.  Jeffrey goes to Heaven.

My question to the Christians out there is–Even if we believe with certainty in the existence of God as described in the Bible, how do you justify the love, respect, and obedience you pay to him if he would choose opportunistic worship to HIM, over a lifetime of compassion and good works as a benchmark for everlasting bliss?  Doesn’t a god that would value the petty, small-minded devotion of a thief and wife-beater over that of an objectively moral and good-hearted member of the human race strike you as a God that has more in common with Kim Jong-Il than the image of Jesus Christ we have all grown up with?  Why should blind devotion to “The Leader” outweigh the behavior of someone who, by all accounts, lives the life of a “good Christian”–just without all the knee-bound devotionals and prostrate declarations of belief?

I would argue that Christians really don’t need to agree with atheists in order to toss their Bibles out with the Wednesday recycling.  They only need to READ those bibles and decide with a critical mind if Yahweh is really a god worth devoting their lives to.  Of course, if you don’t, he’ll send you to Hell–just like Stalin sent his dissenters to the gulags.

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March 4, 2010

Hamilton James–Run! The Christians Are After You!

Every atheist who has ever debated the subject of religion with a person of faith has, at one time or another, come against the following question:

“Even if you’re right, and there really is no God, what’s the harm in people believing in him?  God teaches people to live a good life and surely there’s nothing wrong with that, is there?”

Atheists will often come back with a list of many religiously fuelled conflicts which have bloodied the world throughout the ages–the Crusades, The Salem Witch Trials, Northern Ireland, etc.  Sometimes they will cite the tendency of religion to hold back process in areas of science and to stagnate human knowledge about the universe.  The ambitious atheist may even try to convince the person of faith that the only difference between a cult and a religion is the size of its member’s list–and we all know how destructive cults can be (Now’s the time when we throw in the obligatory Jonestown reference).  Recently, however, a more subtle–but I believe telling–example of the harm that religion can do has come to light.  The American Family Organization, a fundamentalist Christian organization, is calling for the stoning (yes, stoning) of Tillikum, the orca whale that recently killed a trainer at Sea World. 

The AFO cites Old Testament law as the basis for their outrage.  Apparently, hiding among the talking snake, the man who lived inside a whale, and the human beings that lived hundreds of years with nary a hitch in their giddy-up, is a law that spells out–quite clearly–what the consequences should be if a person’s animal should kill another person.  Exodus 21:28 states:  “When an ox gores a man or woman to death, the ox shall be stoned, and its flesh shall not be eaten, but the owner shall not be liable.”  So, even though we, as human beings, chose to pin a dangerous (they are called KILLER whales, after all)  animal into a confined space and coerce it into performing tricks for gawking tourists, no human being should bear liability for the dead trainer.  Instead, the AFO is calling for Tillikum to be STONED TO DEATH!  That one still gets me…Stoned to death.  Not euthanized.  Not even shot.  Stoned to death.  You gotta love Christianity.  Anyway…The issue doesn’t end there, however.  The problem is that the pesky bible doesn’t just anticipate the one-time offender.  No, this far-seeing work of legal excellence also outlines what we should do if the owner of the offending animal should neglect his duty to stone the murdering whale and it should kill again (remember, this was the third person that Tillikum has killed over the years).  Exodus 21:29 (the very next verse) states that if a man’s ox should kill a second time, ““the ox shall be stoned, and its owner also shall be put to death.”  Uh-oh. 

Well, Sea World owns Tillikuk.  You can’t put an amusement park to death…Sea World is, in turn, owned by Sea World Parks and Entertainment.  Well, you can’t really put a corporate entity to death either (the stoning would be very unsatisfying).  Sea World P&E is owned by The Blackstone Group, a publicly traded equity firm.  So, no ONE PERSON owns Blackstone either.  But, surely, when the bible talks about an ox’s “owner” we can assume that it means a person responsible for said ox, can’t we?  After all, technically Tillikum is owned by every person who owns a share of Blackstone stock and that’s a lot of people to put to death, even for a Christian.  So, who’s responsible for The Blackstone Group?  Firm President Hamilton James, that’s who.  Since Tillikum is the whale world’s answer to Son of Sam, the AFO’s logic will allow nothing short of Hamilton James’s death to vindicate the actions of that murdering mammal.  Run, Hamilton James, run for your life!

O.K…That was fun.  But the inevitable response will be, “John, you’re just using a fringe religious movement to represent all the reasonable people of faith in the world.  You’re not being fair.”  Sure I am.  I’m also being kind.  The AFO is only calling for the stoning of a whale–and maybe Hamilton James.  Still, that’s nothing in comparison to the heinous crimes that have been perpetrated against the world in the name of one fictitious God or another.  Even when you take the deaths out of the picture, you still have to face the utter lunacy of the whole thing.  To most “reasonable” Christians, the AFO is a group of extremists.  But what about those who claim the Earth is 6000 years old and that Adam and Eve pranced about with T-Rex in the Garden of Eden?  What about the Creationists?  Aren’t they extremists?  What about a President who goes to war under the credo that “God is on OUR side”.  Isn’t he an extremist?  You swap one flavor of God for another and you get a plane load of terrorists crashing into a skyscraper.  The fact is that the same blind faith, the same aversion to logic and reason, the same willingness to accept the unacceptable, is at the base of all these things–Tillikum the whale is just the most recent–and LEAST crazy example.

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