The view from down here

God: Ground Zero

August 23, 2008

We have been reviewing conversations on Beliefnet's Atheism and other boards.

One exchange was a question put to the Christian community about why God would choose to create an animal kingdom full of suffering where animals have to kill and eat each other.

The answer: (This is precious!) Perhaps God made all animals vegetarian, and only after the fall by Man into sin did they start all that nibbling upon one another.

Interesting. Maybe the serpent should have tempted Eve with some baby back ribs.

All of this and similar proud nonsense is bred from the mistake of interpreting an essentially mystical allegory as literal history. Once you try to make sense of it as a real thing, you just look more and more ridiculous.

Christianity was originally built upon early Gnostic teachings that retold Jewish stories to represent various states of mind, life transitions, and spiritual perspectives. When this is reduced to literalism and placed beside the cold, resolute determinism of science, the result is the unending parade of excuses and general unmitigated balderdash that makes up the bulk of religious debate, and to be quite honest, we really wish you would all stop it.

Let me see if I get it. You want me to believe that God came to earth as a man to teach us new law (because apparently he screwed it up the first time), that he was murdered by crucifixion, that his (somewhat temporary) sacrifice grants a place in heaven for anyone who believes that his sacrifice grants a place in heaven for those who believe, and that after being dead for three days he came back to life, told everyone preach his gospel, and then rose into Heaven to sit next to God (who was himself) and that we need to celebrate this with a ceremony of ritual cannibalism, in which we are supposed to eat crackers that become transformed into human meat and drink grape juice that becomes transformed into blood, but to enter heaven we must first have had water sprinkled on our forehead or have been dunked under water. Good luck.

All of these things are actually symbolic rituals with mystical connections to our lives and society, not historical things that actually happened. There is some value in discussing Christianity as a mystical journey, and even in considering the spiritual subtext of these very stories, but there is no value remaining in continuing to consider these stories as being remotely historical or factual.

Different disciplines of Christianity peel back different layers of the mythic onion. Some ardently believe that the Garden of Eden really existed, while other sects see it as a story. Some understand Noah and the flood to be a fable of enduring through great hardships, while others are still running about looking for old ark wood on mountain tops.

But always, for any Christian to be Christian, God and salvation through the blood of Jesus Christ must be seen as actual realities.

Here's the thing, if you want to take all of this, God, Jesus, Creation, Salvation, as literal things, you need to deal with the what this actually means.

For example, God is either all powerful or not. If not, that really blows the pooch, so let's not go there. When you see God as actually and fully omnipotent, then everything Satan does is utterly condoned and accepted by God.

If you insist on seeing God as real, the all-powerful creator, then God created and allows evil. Maybe for some unknown purpose, but it's all by His will.

God created Hell, when as an omnipotent being he could have invented any number of ways in which souls might have been brought into existence to interact with one another. Is it impossible that God might have created universal knowledge, peace, and Goodness? Of course not. He just didn't want to.

Knowing that God had this choice, but instead chose to create a place of eternal torture where we will reside if we don't listen to his human puppets, suggests that the Christian God is really some kind of sick sadistic monster who likes watching his beloved children writhe like a worm on a hook, forever, by the millions. You go ahead and worship that.

And one of my favorites: If Jesus died for me, why isn't he dead? God didn't give his only begotten son. He loaned him out for a bit of a show.

Basic observations like this never make it through to Christians, who usually are so utterly filled with doctrinal explanations pounded into their heads week after week, that they don't seem to notice these most obvious disconnects. One of the favorite excuses we hear on the board is that suffering and Hell exist because we have to be able to choose right from wrong, good from evil, and otherwise we would be robots with no free will.

First off, free will with a gun to your head is not really all that free. "Love me, worship me, or so help me Me, I will pull this fucking trigger."

Second, I love how this argument places Christians as defending the serpent in the Garden of Eden. "Come here my pretty. You don't want peace and love and eternal happiness in this beautiful garden. Here, eat of the knowledge of Good and Evil. You don't want to be a robot, do you, Eve?"

Until Christians can wake up and throw off the oppressive mantel of literalism, there's really no way for us to relate to them except as spiritual children.

You might want to check 1 Corinthians 13:11 again.

The whole point of religion and a spiritual path is to help us deal with this crazy planet with as much grace and civility as possible under the circumstances. If all it means to you is to be right, despite everything your reasoning mind is trying to scream at you, it's just in the way.

Thinking of any part of Christianity as literal or historical sets you on the wrong path from the very beginning. Go back. Throw away your religion, and when you try to rebuild it from the ground up as a reasoning adult, without excuses, fear, or pretzel logic, you will find the same thing everyone finds when they do this.

It's sad, and traumatic, but it's the only way to begin to grow spiritually.

Copyright 2008 Daniel LaFavers

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