Is God the invisible supreme being mentioned in the Bible, or is he/she/it a force that holds the universe together?
“When man rebelled against his creator and jettisoned the truth of God’s goodness for the lie that he could be like God, sin invaded the world. Along with sin came death and destruction, not only to man the sinner but to the good creation that served as his environment.”
The above is from a column written for a Gannet syndicate newspaper. Readers were given the opportunity to join something called “Times Writers Group” if they could get by the hawkish eyes of the editorial director. The author was a fundamentalist Christian.
Okay, there’s a lot wrong with that paragraph. First off, the man believes it’s a given that the Garden of Eden actually existed, and that Adam and Eve disobeyed God the Father when he warned them not to eat from the Tree of Life. They were tempted by a snake/devil to ignore that admonition (the snake later paid for this by losing his legs); Eve ate first (of course she did) and tempted Adam to do the same. What bothers me is that the man who wrote this doesn’t even question the legitimacy of this myth. There’s a book that does, BEFORE THE DAWN by Nicholas Wade. Wade is a science writer who investigated the notion that we are all related to the fifty or so hunter gatherers who crossed the Red Sea on the south end, followed the Saudi Arabian coastline and eventually settled in India. From there they spread out. Some followed the birds to various islands off the coast, eventually landing in Australia. There was more of a land bridge in those days, it being 50,000 years ago. Scientists have discovered that we all bear the DNA of the San tribe of south central Africa. They were the fifty hunter gatherers. They have a yellowish brown complexion and slightly slanted eyes. Because of genetic drift (isolation caused by the Ice Age) some of these people evolved to become Chinese. So then, there was no Garden of Eden, at least not the European one we’ve been led to believe existed somewhere around the Tigress Euphrates juncture. If it existed, Adam and Eve would’ve been black, something Southern Baptists could never handle. I mean they used the Bible to justify slavery and segregation. In other words, they were prejudiced against themselves.
Then there’s the concept of original sin. We’re supposed to believe that we’re all responsible for what Adam and Eve did. Of course we need Baptism in the church to be washed clean, even though we were babies who didn’t have the intelligence to understand what was happening to us. It also seems to me that the concept of sin in general is a bunch of hooey. You need a priest to absolve you of sin; he’s got a lot of self interest going on there, doesn’t he? And some of those so-called sins are pretty stupid. How about the one about impure thoughts? Seems to me those impure thoughts are normal. If we didn’t have them, we wouldn’t be interested in sex, and if we weren’t interested in sex, most of us wouldn’t be here. Same thing with masturbation. Sure there are a lot of bad things people do that could qualify as sins, such as stealing and bearing false witness against their neighbor, not to mention murder. But they’re not sins. None of us are perfect. Those so-called sins are part of human nature. For instance, we kill each other because murder is sanctioned in certain instances, such as war. We also have emotions, such as jealousy, which cause us to harm our fellow man. There’s also something called capital punishment, where society gets even for what a felon may have done. It’s not always murder; it could be kidnapping or treason. But society says that murder is justified in those cases. The commandment says “Thou shalt not kill,” not “Thou shalt not kill except in self defense or to punish.” It seems to me the Gnostic gospels and the Buddhists were right when they professed that God was within each person. Buddhists had the potential to become a Buddha; when they prayed they prayed to the Buddha within. Humanism elevates the individual. If God is within, we would be a lot more reluctant to take another person’s life, even during war.
Let’s say the Garden of Eden did exist, just for laughs. Why did God the Father create the Tree of Knowledge if he didn’t want Adam and Eve to eat the fruit it grew? He knows everything, doesn’t he? There’s something called Felix Culpa, or the fortunate fall, implying that we were lucky that Adam and Eve disobeyed because God sent Jesus down to Earth to become man and die for our sins. And we still have original sin? Doesn’t make sense. There’s another way to look at Felix Culpa. We were lucky because it gave us more self determination. You’d think that Protestantism would approve of one of the punishments, being forced to work for your sustenance, since they harp about the work ethic so much. Many even insist that the poor are lazy because they don’t work hard enough. So then, the punishment was actually a reward? You can’t have it both ways. It’s time to mention evolution here. Hey, Pope Francis I doesn’t have a problem with it; he says God could have been a little more subtle about creation than the Bible says. If we believe that evolution is how man came to be, then there wasn’t a fortunate fall; there was a fortunate rising as we came down from the trees, started to eat meat, and make tools to help us bring down the mammoths or whatever, learn how to communicate, establish communities and eventually learn how to farm, store food and create cites. From there we went on to land a man on the moon. Let’s hear it for the humanists, baby.
We’ve been hearing about what a bunch of savages those ISIS and Al Qaeda terrorists are lately, but they don’t see themselves as savages. They think they can find in the writings of Muhammad an obligation to kill people who don’t respect the prophet. Well, we have an American ISIS or an American Taliban who claim that every word in the Bible is literal. The New Testament is not literal. When Constantine became emperor of Rome he decided to convert to Catholicism. At the time different sects were arguing over whether Jesus was actually God. Constantine told the bishops to get their act together and to come up with a canon. The bishops rounded up all of the “holy” texts that were fit to print, providing that they saw Christ as God. Some of the formerly holy texts were eliminated, the Gnostic gospels. St. Thomas didn’t see Christ as God; his gospel didn’t make the cut. About the same time Thomas wrote his gospel, John wrote his, and that’s where Thomas became “doubting Thomas“. The Gnostic gospels were also more humanistic or Greek, which got them nixed. Perhaps the most contentious of the books in the New Testament is Revelation. St. Augustine didn’t want to include it, but finally approved when the other bishops agreed to teach it as symbolic. Bad mistake. Thing is, John of Patmos, who wrote or copied (from the Zoroastrians) Revelation, believed that Jesus would come again during his lifetime, hence all the references to what sounds like the seven hills of Rome. Rome was crucifying and persecuting Christians, and Revelation was a sort of pep talk. He had no idea fundamentalists would be predicting the Rapture in 2015. He didn’t think 2015 would ever happen. And another thing. You know those gospels in the New Testament? They were originally anonymous. We don’t know who wrote them. If they had signed their own work, they would’ve been crucified.
The author of the quote above is constantly arguing with himself. He entitles his column “Digging Deep to Answer ‘Why’?”. Turns out that means “why does God allow bad things to happen?” He comes to the realization that “catastrophe is the purposeful hand of God at work.” Sure. What are his purposes then? “To warn men: ‘Sin destroys, be humbled and turn to God for mercy (Luke 13:1-5).’”; “To see that justice is done for those who persist in rebellion against God (Exodus 34:6,7).”; “To teach us: life is brief (Psalm 90:11-12), and we are NOT in control.”; “To mold his people’s character to his own. (Romans 5:3-5)”; “To bring his loved ones home.”; “To spur compassion.” It’s pretty apparent Joe Doe didn’t dig very deep to explain why God allows bad things to happen to good people. Fundamentalists never dig very deep; they quote the Bible, as did John Doe for his explanations.
It may be time to turn to Sam Harris’s THE END OF FAITH to respond to John Doe’s erudite column. Sam Harris was a neuroscience student when he wrote the book. It bothered him that fundamentalists used faith to justify their beliefs. In other words, you don’t need any actual evidence. Belief is enough. Radical Islam teaches the same thing. If it says in the Koran (no, it doesn’t) that jihad and murder of innocent people is justified, then it’s okay to cut people’s heads off. We see the same thing in the Old Testament. God the Father told Joshua to kill all the women and children after the Battle of Jericho. How do you justify that? They weren’t the Chosen People. If God has a chosen people, I don’t want to go to Heaven.
There are so many contradictions in the Bible that it’s hard to take it seriously. An eye for an eye in the Old Testament. Turn the other cheek in the New Testament. The quote above from Exodus is another example. Those who persist in rebellion against God should be punished, but God forgives all in the New Testament. Perhaps the Christians should have started over and left the Old Testament out along with the Book of Enoch.
Wouldn’t a loving father respect a child who questions the way things are rather than except obvious fallacies. Why is God invisible? To test your faith. Why don’t we have any miracles these days? We do; you just don’t recognize them as miracles. Are we more sophisticated in 2015?
The only reason I’m still an agnostic is because of the complexity of the universe. Everything seems to work together a bit too nicely for this to have happened randomly. Why aren’t we freezing to death or burning up? Mars is a giant dirt ball, and we’re not. Then there’s quantum mechanics where things get really weird. An electron can be in two places at the same time, sometimes light years apart. Some scientists maintain that our cells are like miniature computers that retain everything we’ve ever done. When we die our atoms project into space. As Shakespeare said, we are the things that stars are made of. If there’s a God he/she/it may be a force like electro-magnetism or gravity. We don’t know what dark matter or dark energy is, but we do know that it’s holding the universe together. Scientists have recently discovered the Higgs Boson particle, sometimes called the God Particle, which is a step further in our search for dark matter. When we find it, will we find God or will it just lead to more fascinating mysteries? I think it’s the latter.
Dave Schwinghammer's Fargo-esque mystery, SOLDIER'S GAP, is available on Authorsden.com and at Amazon.com, new and used.