Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Good Religious Values

Arabi, Louisiana -- House formerly flooded out in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
If you are religious, you "approve" all of the following:
1. A man sets his own apartment building on fire, killing all the people and animals inside. However, he saves some of his own family and a few of the pets.
2. A man buys some dogs and has them compete in fighting competitions. When many of them lose, the man destroys the dogs and their offspring.
3. A mother learns that her son masturbates. She is offended by this and then kills him.
4. A sniper shoots at every person who walks outside from a store, killing those people.
5. A woman with several cats drowns the first-born kitten of every new litter.
6. A neighbor overhears a teenager having a spat with her parents. At one point, the angry teen says to her mother and father: “I wish I didn’t live here. I wish you weren’t my parents. I hope someday you feel as bad as you are making me feel.” The neighbor murders the teen for what she said to her parents.
7. A man with children marries and lives with a woman who also has children. He orders his wife and oldest child to bring any of the woman’s children to him who prefer their biological father and will not call the man “Dad.” The man murders those children.
Why do you support these actions? Because such behavior is modeled in the Bible.
1. Genesis 7:21-23 -- Worldwide flood.
2. Revelation 4:11 -- God creates mankind for his own pleasure then God destroys (murders) men, women and their babies when he isn’t pleased.
3. Genesis 38:9-10 -- Onan, when he has sex with his brother’s widow, wastes his seed on the ground. What he has done offends God. God murders him.
4. Exodus 9:23-25 -- God murders by hail every man that is outdoors.
5. Exodus 12:29 -- God murders all of Egypt’s firstborn.
6. Exodus 21:17 & Leviticus 20:9 -- Whoever curses his father or mother shall be murdered.
7. Luke 19:27 -- Jesus says: Those who would not have me be king over them, bring them before me and slay them.
So I guess God is love...except if you don't meet certain conditions that (a) are ambiguously expressed, (b) contradict other conditions, (c) are not agreed upon by a diverse array of biblical "experts," and (d) are not applicable to you anyway because you are not the right kind of people.

More likely, God is fear. Bertrand Russell has it quite correct:
Religion is based, I think, primarily and mainly upon fear. It is partly the terror of the unknown and partly, as I have said, the wish to feel that you have a kind of elder brother who will stand by you in all your troubles and disputes. Fear is the basis of the whole thing -- fear of the mysterious, fear of defeat, fear of death. Fear is the parent of cruelty, and therefore it is no wonder if cruelty and religion have gone hand in hand. It is because fear is at the basis of those two things. In this world we can now begin a little to understand things, and a little to master them by help of science, which has forced its way step by step against the Christian religion, against the churches, and against the opposition of all the old precepts. Science can help us to get over this craven fear in which mankind has lived for so many generations. Science can teach us, and I think our own hearts can teach us, no longer to look around for imaginary supports, no longer to invent allies in the sky, but rather to look to our own efforts here below to make this world a better place to live in, instead of the sort of place that the churches in all these centuries have made it.
So too does Karl Marx rightly observe the cultural use of religion to control populations:
The wretchedness of religion is at once an expression and a protest against real wretchedness. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the feeling of a heartless world, just as it is the spirit of unspiritual conditions. It is the opium of the people.
In and through religion, people become trained to accept as divine fiat that the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. People train themselves into agents of conservatism, social and economic inequity, and intellectual ghettoization.

Here comes the objection, and this from a humanist who at one level makes a valid point:
If the question they [i.e., atheists] are asking about religion is, Don’t these damned believers know what’s in the Bible, the answer is somewhere in the range between probably not to possibly so; but even if they do, they probably know that the Bible is not recommending carving up your girlfriend. And probably can guess that when you find blood and gore of this magnitude the story is about something else. Phrases and words like “symbolism,” “surface meaning,” “allegory,” “folk legend” and “myth” come to mind.
Probably? They probably know what the Bible really means? No, R. Joseph Hoffmann, I don't think we can say that they probably know. By the same token, we can't say that they know God isn't love. Even more egregious is the tacit idea that we must not criticize or point out the more unsavory elements of the Bible. We may really know that the Bible isn't really advocating carving up one's girlfriend, but does this mean we should just move on from the apparent advocacy and not reflect on it? You criticize atheists for constructing straw men, I think we're exhuming very real skeletons.

"God is Love" is one of those meaningless statements that sound pleasant and appeal to people's ardent desires for love and security. But don't just accept the statement on its face. This claim about God is belied by the reported actions of the fictional deity. It's belied by the disjunction between  behavior that we actually would find acceptable in our culture and behavior that we only can accept within the confines of the imagined world of the Bible.


  1. Shalmo8:33 PM

    They don't apply to all religious people, just Christians.

    Excluding 2 and 7, they also apply to Jews, but that's it.

  2. Uh...OK. I guess that changes things completely. God really is love.

    Oh, wait. No he's not. Still a shit.

  3. Anonymous9:56 AM

    You want God so much in your life, you can think or talk of nothing else.

  4. Could be. Thanks for playing.


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