Dienstag, 3. März 2009

Have you read the bible?

Mr. Plotz has (at least the Old Testament). After outlining the reasons why everybody living in our Western culture ought to have read it (a notion on which I fully agree, the Bible is the clue to so many parts of our culture), he describes the results for his faith:

You notice that I haven't said anything about belief. I began the Bible as a hopeful, but indifferent, agnostic. I wished for a God, but I didn't really care. I leave the Bible as a hopeless and angry agnostic. I'm brokenhearted about God.

After reading about the genocides, the plagues, the murders, the mass enslavements, the ruthless vengeance for minor sins (or none at all), and all that smiting—every bit of it directly performed, authorized, or approved by God—I can only conclude that the God of the Hebrew Bible, if He existed, was awful, cruel, and capricious. He gives us moments of beauty—such sublime beauty and grace!—but taken as a whole, He is no God I want to obey and no God I can love.


Unfortunately, this line of reasoning seems to leave me with several unappealing options: 1) believing in no god; 2) believing in the awful, vindictive God of the Bible; or 3) believing in some vague "creator" who is not remotely attached to the events of the Bible, who didn't really do any of the deeds ascribed to Him in the book and thus can't be held responsible for them.

My background is different (my parents were vaguely Christian, and I have oscillated between vague belief, agnosticism and atheism in my youth), but I feel with Mr. Plotz, and the option I chose is No. 1. If you believe in God's existence, you don't have this option, so I'd be interested to know how believers get around this problem (if they notice it at all).


vacuouswastrel hat gesagt…

I think he misses out an option. Many gnostic groups believed in the god of the new testament, but believed that the god of the old testament was only plato's demiurge - and that he was an evil being. Jesus was thought to be an emissary from a power greater than Jehovah.

In terms of what modern Christians believe, I think they've got two options: either say that those things didn't happen or say that they aren't evil.

The former can either mean that the old testament is true but is allegorical, or it can mean that it isn't even true (which is becoming increasingly popular, I think).

The latter can be either the apologetic "well, given the times it was probably the best God could do" equivocation, or the fire-and-brimstone its-OK-to-be-a-bastard-if-you're-God "well, God did it, so it can't have been evil" defence.

A third option, of course, is just to shrug and say "mysterious ways" - which in translation means "er... let's not talk about that".

Hans hat gesagt…

First, welcome, and it's nice to have you as the first commenter on my blog!
Thanks also for listing the options. So far, I'm familiar with all of them. The gnostic option would be out of the framework of mainstream Christianity and it, of course, would be out of snych with the New Testament, where Jesus links himself with the god of the Old Testament. So it's basically saying "forget about the entire bible" (except maybe as a source of hints to the gnostic truth), which from a gnostic point of view is probably fine.
The "true but allegorical" looks like a cop-out, and the "OT isn't true" even more so. It's a kind of "smorgasboard" Christianity, where you only take the things you like. My problem with this is not the pick-and-choose in itself, but the basis for the choice - if Christians dismiss some parts, on what basis do they believe the things they choose to be true? If God's slayings and killings are only an allegory, then Christ's resurrection can be one as well.
The "it's the best what God could do" is in contradiction to the tenet that God is omnipotent. Actually, as I perhaps didn't express clearly enough in my post, the triple tenet of God being omnipotent, just, and loving is, besides my doubting of God's existence, my problem with Christianity - the God described in the bible can be perhaps two out of the three, but not all of them. I simply cannot accept the stance of "God did it, so it cannot be evil" (or as John puts it, potters having the right to do with their produce as they see fit).