Thursday, April 24, 2008

The God Delusion

"The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully."

From Richard Dawkins' best-selling book "The God Delusion."

Hmmm, where to start? I haven't read this book, so I don't know what the context of this quote is, or even if there is a context that would change much the meaning, but yes, I suppose that to some the God of the Old Testament might seem rather horrific. Put the Old Testament into context however, and I suppose that God might actually appear benevolent compared to some other gods.

A jealous God, yes, vindictive and bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser, I can see why some people might think that, misogynistic and homophobic, I can see why some would believe as well, even racist. But petty? Unjust? Unforgiving? Someone has neither read the psalms nor the story of David, just for example. Control freak? Infanticidal and genocidal I could see, but filicidal? If there is one lesson you learn from the Old Testament and Abraham in particular, it is that Yahweh, unlike other gods DOES NOT desire the sacrifice of one's children to him. Pestilential, ha ha ha. OK. Megalomaniacal? I don't even know what that means. But sadomasochistic and capriciously malevolent bully, that's exaggerated.

You know what hasn't changed since the Old Testament? God. What has changed since the Old Testament is our perception of Him, of how the universe works, and oh, our way of expressing all that. If you read the Old Testament, (which I think our firend has not) you absolutely MUST put it into the context of the times to truely understand it. People thought the sky was "the waters above" and that light was independant of the sun! (see creation story - light is created first, and then the sun). The way people talked has changed. There is a lot of symbolism and yes, there are a lot of JOKES in the Old Testament. For example the barren woman whose name is Tamar. Which means fig tree, which is pretty much the symbol of fertility.

So if God hasn't changed his way of doing things, then I guess it's safe to say that He wasn't any more malevolent then than He is now. Just that now, when disaster strikes, we don't take it as punishment from Him. When society goes to Hell like this one is, yes it is because they've chosen to ignore God, but God isn't punishing them so much as letting them punish themselves. You want God out, he steps back and leaves. And then you wonder why there is so much suffering in the world. Control freak? God? If He were a control freak, we'd be living in a perfect world, perfectly subdued, perfect men and women, but we wouldn't be free to choose. God gave us that choice. What we do with it determines how happy we are.

A lot of the things done in God's name in the Old Testament were things that were happening in all cultures, because these are things that all cultures in that area in general thought was demanded of them. In fact, the Jews were ahead of their time. They were much nicer to their women than in other cultures. They took care of the orphans and widows. They forgave debts after 7 years. In many ways it was better to be a Jew than anything else. They were much cleaner for one, and caught less diseases.

Richard Dawkins needs to go take a few university courses in exigesis before he writes another book on the God of the Old Testament. He could also stand to start using his soul. You can't know God unless you reach out to Him through your soul. Pray to Him everyday and ask Him to show you He exists, and He WILL talk to you. Not in words you can hear, but to your heart. Anyone who has had a relationship with God, who has prayed to Him for a length of time, KNOWS beyond the shadow of a doubt that He does exist.