Friday, October 2, 2015

When it comes to God, I believed Might Makes Right

"Might is right! And you know it!" Screenshot from Pokemon Blue. Image source.
I read an interesting post, Christians: Quit Blaming God For Your Horrific Beliefs. Own It., by Peter Mosley. It's about when Christians say offensive things- for example, telling people they're going to hell- and then when people are upset about it, the Christian says "Oh, I’m not saying it. GOD’S saying it. It’s just the way it is."

Mosley says, no it's still your fault, you chose to believe in and follow that kind of God.

This is a startling idea to me, because back when I was a Real True Christian, it never occurred to me to judge God and determined if he was worth following. I'm not talking about the question of whether God exists or not- I totally questioned and doubted that. But assuming that the God presented at my church exists, it was obvious that we should obey him.

Why? Because he's all-powerful. He made the world, he made you, and he has a right to tell you how to live your life. And if you don't dedicate your life to this God, then you'll never have a fulfilling life. And you'll go to hell.

It's hard for me to parse out how much of my choice to be a Christian was based on "an all-powerful being said to do this, I have to or else I'll go to hell, all that matters is saving myself, screw morality" and how much was "God loves us and if we obey God, everything will work out way better." There's much more to it than the way Mosley presents it in his blog post, as if people are saying "well this is an awful belief but it's what God says, so... *shrug*". No, Christians who hold those beliefs (about hell, denying rights to various demographics of people, etc) do not think they are awful beliefs. They may acknowledge that they sound awful, but on some deeper level, perhaps for reasons known only to God, they are not actually awful.

In other words, I believed that whatever God said or commanded was by definition right and good, solely because God said it (or, solely because it was in the bible- but that is taken to mean the same thing as "God said it"). Sometimes there were things that didn't seem good, and so then came the bible-study discussions on how we can convince ourselves that this horrible thing that happened in the bible was not actually horrible. We worked hard to find a way to believe that the Canaanite genocide was justified. We respectfully read the passages that said women can't teach men and tried to convince ourselves that it was right and good and not sexist at all.

OF COURSE we were uncomfortable with those passages. Those were the "difficult" ones. We believed in and loved God for other reasons- reasons about love and the benefits of being a Christian. But we had also been taught that the nasty beliefs were an indispensable part of the package.

In this ideology, morality is defined as following whatever rules God sets up, no matter how arbitrary they are, no matter if they make sense or not, no matter if they're beneficial or not. Many of God's rules do make sense and there are obvious benefits to following them, but this is just a nice side-effect, not central to the concept of what morality is.

In other words, to determine right and wrong, we must read the bible and distill it into a list of things to do or not do. Because Christians feel that this task is so important, they discuss and debate continually about context and history and which rules applied only in the past and which ones apply to us now. Yes, they use logic in this process, but only to address questions like "what would this have meant to the original audience?" not "if people followed this rule, would it have a positive or negative affect on society?"

God said it, so we have to obey it, and it doesn't matter if it makes any sense or not.

And because God is the very definition of morality, it's impossible to judge God's actions. There are no higher principles in play- no, God is above all that.

So if a person killed someone, that would be wrong. But when God does it, we pick up our apologetics books to find out why it's okay.

If you torture someone as punishment for, say, lying, that's awful and you should go to jail. But when God sends people to hell for their mundane sins, it's "God's justice" and it only seems wrong because we just can't grasp how holy God is.

If someone tries to convince you that the only way you can be happy is to be in a relationship with them, that nobody else loves you like they do, if they manipulate you and sabotage your plans, if they say "I'm hurting you because I love you so much", that is abuse and that is not okay. But when God does it, it's "God never stops pursuing us" and "God knew I had to hit rock bottom before I realized my need for him" and that's your testimony.

God is all-powerful and God created us. So who are we to judge God?

In other words, might makes right.

(So glad I don't believe that crap anymore.)

But anyway, back to the original topic, about believing that a certain God exists, but judging that God as being a jerk who is unworthy of worship.

What's sort of ironic about this is that's what Real True Christians think everyone else is doing. You know, everyone secretly knows God exists and Christianity is true, but they just love their sin so much and they defiantly don't want to follow God.

And I'm having a really hard time figuring out, back then, to what extent I was motivated by hell- by just saving myself. Perhaps a thought experiment would help shed some light on it. Think about this question: Would you sacrifice your life to save someone else?

Okay, most people would say it's very moral and courageous to die to save someone else. I'm not that brave, I probably wouldn't, but theoretically, I think it's a good thing to do. And back when I was a Real True Christian, yeah, I believed you would be rewarded in heaven (well, I mean, you only go to heaven if you're "really saved", obviously) so everything would work out all right in the end. Yeah, you died, but then after death there was a reward for you, so it's all good.

Here's another question: Would you sacrifice your salvation so that someone else could be saved? Would you go to hell so that someone else could go to heaven?

No. Absolutely not. Because if I did, where's my reward? Yeah so that person I love gets to be in heaven, but ... if I'm in hell, what do I care about that?

The idea of doing something good because it's the right thing to do, because it helps people, but there is no reward for me- that idea was completely foreign to me. It was always "yeah we make sacrifices now, but it's okay because God will reward us later."

Again, it's very difficult to figure out how much of my choice to be a Christian was "God says you have to, or else your life will suck and you'll go to hell", how much was benefits to myself, how much was because I really believed it was the most moral way to live, etc etc.

Okay this post is kind of long and rambly and has some good points but I can't connect them all and really give a real answer. So I'll just add one more thing:

Isn't it ironic that the same people who accuse me of "moral relativism" when I say it's not a sin to have premarital sex (does it hurt others? if yes, it's a sin. if no, it's not) are the ones who believe that genocide was okay in the bible because God commanded it? So it's wrong to kill an entire city, unless of course God tells you to, and then it's the right thing to do.

And isn't it ironic that the same people who say "atheists have no morals" get their morals from whatever arbitrary commands they can parse out of the bible- no matter if those commands make any sense or not- while most atheists I know base their morality on ideals like love and what's beneficial to society.

And isn't it ironic that I used to believe a sacrifice was only worth making if God rewarded me for it someday, while atheists who supposedly "have no morals" help others without needing a reward?

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