The mind is creative. We can take a pile of clay and make bowls, find junk and make art, and we can organize complex instruments into symphonies. We can make patterns out of chaos, see images in clouds, and religious images on various foods and walls.
This ability is a wonderful part of our species. It has allowed us to be artists of various kinds and it gives richness and meaning to our lives. But sometimes this skill can be problematic. It can be problematic because it can sometimes create the illusion that we have found something important or true in places where there was little of significance. In other cases it can make us see more than there is in things because our preconceived notions will not allow us to see something plain.
Theology. The study of god(s) right? I’m not so sure. I think that this is more likely finding patterns in human experience and making ideologies out of them. It seems like people reading scriptures and finding ways to reconcile contradictions into mysteries, nonsense into ultimate meaning, and atrocities into justice.
Because there are many things within the written history of humankind that are interesting, obscure, and opaque. There are periods of history unfamiliar to us when history, philosophy, and mythology were indistinguishable. But much of it is now looked at as true. And some of these true things come across to me as, well, disgusting.
Take, for example, this story from the book of Judges.
11:29 Then the Spirit of the LORD came upon Jephthah, and he passed over Gilead, and Manasseh, and passed over Mizpeh of Gilead, and from Mizpeh of Gilead he passed over unto the children of Ammon.
11:30 And Jephthah vowed a vow unto the LORD, and said, If thou shalt without fail deliver the children of Ammon into mine hands,
11:31 Then it shall be, that whatsoever cometh forth of the doors of my house to meet me, when I return in peace from the children of Ammon, shall surely be the LORD’s, and I will offer it up for a burnt offering.
11:32 So Jephthah passed over unto the children of Ammon to fight against them; and the LORD delivered them into his hands.
11:33 And he smote them from Aroer, even till thou come to Minnith, even twenty cities, and unto the plain of the vineyards, with a very great slaughter. Thus the children of Ammon were subdued before the children of Israel.
11:34 And Jephthah came to Mizpeh unto his house, and, behold, his daughter came out to meet him with timbrels and with dances: and she was his only child; beside her he had neither son nor daughter.
11:35 And it came to pass, when he saw her, that he rent his clothes, and said, Alas, my daughter! thou hast brought me very low, and thou art one of them that trouble me: for I have opened my mouth unto the LORD, and I cannot go back.
11:36 And she said unto him, My father, if thou hast opened thy mouth unto the LORD, do to me according to that which hath proceeded out of thy mouth; forasmuch as the LORD hath taken vengeance for thee of thine enemies, even of the children of Ammon.
11:37 And she said unto her father, Let this thing be done for me: let me alone two months, that I may go up and down upon the mountains, and bewail my virginity, I and my fellows.
11:38 And he said, Go. And he sent her away for two months: and she went with her companions, and bewailed her virginity upon the mountains.
11:39 And it came to pass at the end of two months, that she returned unto her father, who did with her according to his vow which he had vowed: and she knew no man. And it was a custom in Israel,
11:40 That the daughters of Israel went yearly to lament the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite four days in a year.
What has happened here? It seems quite clear to me. But in a recent conversation with a Christian (a ‘real’ Christian, as he said), I found that what happened here is that Jephthah had offered an animal sacrifice because burnt offerings were always animals. He could not see what the story said because he had a preconceived notion that the God of the Bible and what he would do. If Jephthah killed his daughter and this was the literal truth of God’s word, then that god is a monster.
What about the Trinity? How did that come about? There is no concept of the Trinity in the New Testament. It is a concept derived from a need during the early church and became orthodoxy in the third century for many churches (but not all). If Jesus was God, then the message is important. If Jesus is just another prophet, then so what?
Mystery. That is the key. Where there are things not understood, the mind reels in the mystery. It looks for understanding, a seeking of sorts, and finds something in the seeking whether something is there or not. And the further the mystery travels from the sense we employ to the rest of our experience, the more important and meaningful it is. It is sort of like what happens with gambling; sometimes a few dollars come back in small snippets and it keeps the mind attended, even though most of the time it is draining you dry. Mystery is an addiction.
It is sort of like homeopathy; the less actual presence of the ingredient, the more potent it is. That is, the more mysterious, distant, and unknowable God is, the more it sticks to the mind and suffuses everything.
It will skew interpretations, create the presence of divinity in clouds of woo-woo emotional feelings, and it will create a strong sense of divinity in the stillness of calmness and tranquility. It is the smallest, simplest of assumptions that has the power to make the world look mystical, magical, and miraculous.
Yes, our creativity, sparked by the mystery of the divine, brings the divine into everything. It becomes the explanation of everything. God did it. Godidit. It becomes the placebo that supplies meaning and structure to our lives, when it actually does nothing at all.
In the history of human culture our understanding of nature has pushed the concept of gods back to the corners of the universe. We understand enough to know that the concept of miracle is not necessary, so God gets shuffled to the corners of morality, purpose, and gets attributed to the woo-woo feelings we get when we feel spiritual. And it works because we want it to work; because our powers of creativity allow us to see it working when it very clearly does not. But with the faith blinders on, it is difficult to see what is plain and simple.
Jephthah killed his virgin daughter. God is unnecessary to explain anything. Santa does not exist. Sorry, kids.
16 thoughts on “The homeopathy of god”
In the passage from Judges, are you suggesting that it was God’s fault that this guy
a) made that stupid vow
b) that God made him keep his vow?
Are suggesting that because something is recorded in the Bible that God is in favour of it?
I’m suggesting that If this is the true word of God, then this vow was at least sanctioned by God in some way.
This is a problem for those that believe that the Bible is the word of God. They have to reconcile God allowing such a thing to happen. If this is just a story, then how are we to distinguish between what are just stories and what are prophesies etc? Why toss this aside but not the crucifixion? Why accept this but not the fact that we are supposed to stone unruly children to death?
Theology is an attempt to make sense of all of these stories; it is an attempt to find ways to make stories like this jibe with God as being omnipotent, omniscient, omni-benevolent, or whatever the theology happens to be defending. The fact that our minds are plastic enough to do this I find interesting.
I don’t believe in a god. I’m saying that if the Bible says it does that mean that a Biblical literalist has to be in favor of it?
“I’m suggesting that If this is the true word of God, then this vow was at least sanctioned by God in some way.”
No, no, no. Cain and Able were bringing offerings to God. But that doesn’t mean that God sanctioned the murder of Able by his brother.
Remember, not everything in the Bible is “The Word of God.” The Bible is, by and large, a compendium of our screw-ups and God’s repeated offer of forgiveness. The story you reference is just one example of how a guy screwed up. It’s the same with David, one of Israel’s greatest Kings. David worshipped God like no other King. However, he screwed up. He had hundreds of wives, something that is forbidden by God. At one point David took another man’s wife. Got her pregnant. He had her husband killed. These are all things that God forbids. These things are recorded in the Bible but it would be impossible to make a case that God was in favour of David doing these things.
“They have to reconcile God allowing such a thing to happen.”
Allowing? God does not stop us from choosing to disobey Him. Nor does He protect us from the suffering and tragedy that comes with living upon this earth, or the consequences of our disobedience.
Rather, God uses our sinfulness and the evil that we experience, and the consequences of our sin and will develop in us (Us meaning Christians) if we let Him, characters that are profoundly strong.
But that doesn’t mean that He blesses of approves of the things that we do wrong.
If God is all knowing and all powerful, then God knew everything taht would happen. This makes our free will impossible, or at least absurd because God still knows what the choices will be. God created the universe knowing every detail of history, including my mistype in this reply to you above (which I shall leave because God wishes it.
The implications of omniscience and omnipotence is that God could have created a universe any way it wanted to. It chose this way, with all of the disobedience intact. Including The fall of Lucifer. Including the Fall of mankind.
The bottom line is that the Bible is mythology. It’s a bunch of fairy tales. To take it seriously is ridiculous. I’m just showing a few ways that the stories are ridiculous. Theology is an attempt to make the ridiculous respectable, and I find taht really amusing.
I don’t understand. How does knowing what you are going to choose to do take away your ability to make that choice?
Yes God chose to make the universe and more importantly the earth this way. And if this world and this stage of life was all there is then I suppose it would be just as absurd as the life you envision, one without any ultimate purpose, meaning or goal. However, THIS life, is simply a preparation for the next. Love, choice, suffering all have meaning and context and purpose. In the Christian world-view, our pain is not absurd, nor is it a waste of time. Our tragedies are but a means to an end.
God gave us the option of paradise now, or later. We chose later. At least some of us have chosen later. Some, such as yourself have decided to absent yourself from paradise for eternity.
If you know what will happen, that’s not free will.
What reason do you have to believe that eternity is possible. And what reason do you have to believe that we survive bodily death? And if it were possible, wouldn’t eternity of ANYTHING be hell, eventually?
If you have any concept of the passage of time, even if a moment is a trillion years, what about after the first million trillion years? How about after a trillion times that? Is that really paradise?
What makes my life meaningful is realizing that it’s short and it ends.
“If you know what will happen, that’s not free will.”
Let’s say I’m working with a client who has told me that he is going to quit drinking alcohol. He tells me that he is going to continue to go to the bar and hang out with his same old friends.
He’s just not going to drink alcohol anymore.
He’s going to continue to live with a woman who treats him like crap. He’s just not going to drink alcohol anymore.
He’s going to continue to smoke dope, and use cocaine but
he’s not going to drink alcohol anymore.
As someone who’s worked with several thousand alcoholics, I know that he WILL in fact drink alcohol again. I don’t see how my knowing what will happen in any way takes away from his choice to start drinking again. But, whatever . . .
“What reason do you have to believe that eternity is possible. And what reason do you have to believe that we survive bodily death?”
Jesus’ tomb was empty. There is only one explanation that explains:
. The emtpy tomb
. The dramatic change in the disciples from cowards to fearless witnesses.
. The conversion of the sceptic and former Christian killer, Paul
. The conversion of the sceptic and brother of Jesus, James
. The beginning of the Christian Church right there in Jerusalem, right where the murder of Jesus had taken place.
There is only one explanation that explains all of these events and that is the resurrection of Jesus. And if God raised Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit then as He promised to do, He will one day raise everyone from the dead.
“And if it were possible, wouldn’t eternity of ANYTHING be hell, eventually?”
I don’t think there will be a concept of time nor of course the passage of time. We will simply be, either in the total presence of Love or in the total absence of Love.
“What makes my life meaningful is realizing that it’s short and it ends.”
That’s too bad. I believe there is far, far more to be had.
You missed the point. If God created the universe the way God did, then he created such that some people would not be saved. Why would anyone do that? The question is not that God just steps into the picture and recognizes what will happen, it’s that he created every aspect of the universe to be just like that. That means that My “choices” were predetermined by this god, and I am going or not going to this paradise based on this god’s whim, not my own.
Are you serious? That is your reason for believing in an afterlife? Because of the STORY of Jesus in a collection of redacted books? Is it possible that it was all just made up, mythological, or exaggerated? Isn’t it possible that all of those things were not true at all or only partially true at best? You need to stop reading Josh McDowell and read something non-apologetic.
Hell, even William Craig has a better argument than that “empty tomb” BS. And Craig fails as well, as he even admits that if the evidence conflicts with his faith then so much for the evidence.
You can believe what you like, but you have no rational leg to stand on. Try really challenging your faith, not reading apologetics that support your preexisting faith. Try reading John Loftus, Dan Barker, or watching/listening to the Atheist Experience show from Austin.
Here, try this:
“You missed the point. If God created the universe the way God did, then he created such that some people would not be saved. Why would anyone do that?”
I’m quite aware of “the point.” And I understand your question. It’s a good one. I think however that an even better question is, Why would God create and then save for heaven, literally billions of people who SHOULD have been destined for hell? God did not create this world so that:
No one would be saved, or
No one could be saved
Rather God created this world knowing (not causing but knowing) that some would reject His offer of salvation.
“The question is not that God just steps into the picture and
recognizes what will happen, it’s that he created every aspect of the universe to be just like that.”
You mean that you (of course it’s too soon to tell for sure) were created specifically for hell? That you and others have been destined or fated to go to hell? I know some believe this. And there are some verses that could be used to support such an argument. However taken within the context of all scripture, I doubt that’s accurate.
“I am going or not going to this paradise based on this god’s whim, not my own.”
No way. Free will is too big an issue in the Bible for that to be the case.
The ONLY thing that will keep you out of heaven is rejecting God’s offer of salvation.
What you’re doing is like a starving man who lives right next door to a Food Bank. He refuses to go next door to get something to eat and then he blames the Food Bank for making him starve to death. I suppose you an others can think that way but it doesn’t seem logical to me.
“Are you serious? That is your reason for believing in an afterlife? Because of the STORY of Jesus in a collection of redacted books?”
These are separate historical accounts that, as you say have been gathered together in one book. But only bigotry can make one think that being in the Bible should take away from it’s historical value. Certainly historical scholars don’t believe that.
So what’s your explanation.
Jesus was crucified
Jesus was buried in a tomb
Credible people believe they saw him alive AND changed everything of worldly importance in response to that fact. They lived in hardship, deprivation and finally endured torture and execution based upon they claim to have seen. Liars make very poor martyrs yet each and every one of them went to their deaths proclaiming Jesus’ resurrection. Why would they do that if it wasn’t true?
The sceptic Paul, someone who hated the church with a passion became a believer.
The sceptic James, Jesus’ brother became a believer
These are historical facts attested to by friends and enemies of Jesus and the Church. Why would enemies agree that these are facts if they aren’t true? Again, what is your explanation?
what separate historical accounts?
Some more resources that you will not read.
(Google analytics shows me that you did not click the one above)
People say that there is all this evidence for the historical Jesus, but when you do the research you find the evidence lacking. Personally, it does not matter much to me whether the person existed. I just don’t see a lot of evidence that he did.
I’ve read enough of Loftus and Bart to be very sceptical of whether they had anything more than an errant belief ABOUT God, versus a relationship with God. When that belief turned out to be false, rather than checking out the belief, they chucked God. There are so terribly many people like that. They post about how they used to be Christians and are now atheists. But they say things about their experience as a Christian that they simply wouldn’t say if they’d actually had the real deal. They seem to be speaking from the same ignornace that people have prior to a genuine relationship with Jesus.
Anyhow, what separate accounts? Well, Luke, John, Mark, Acts, Matthew etc. The New Testament is make up of 27 separate documents written by 9 different authors. These documents weren’t written FOR the Bible. These writers had no idea that what they’d written would someday change the world. Read the first four verses of Luke and you’ll see why he wrote his biography of Jesus. The others did the same. They had these amazing experiences and they wrote about them. There may have been hundreds like these but these separate documents of antiquity are all that remain.
Why must you resort to the no-true-Christian fallacy? Why is it that whenever someone finds that they no longer believe in Christianity, ir because they were never Christian? Absurd. Why would people lie about such things? Is it possible that they believed genuinely and honestly thought they had a relationship with Jesus?
In listening to people like Matt Dilahunty, Barker, and Loftus, I hear the same things from their mouths about their experiences before they stopped believing as from current believers. They see it different in retrospect, but that’s precisely the point. They have realized that they were deluding themselves, as you are doing.
The Bible, as it exists today, was indeed not written to be a book, but was separate books. This is why the accounts are so different. This is why there are contradictions, inconsistencies, etc. The fact that they were chosen as the canon in the fourth century, with some redaction, is interesting as well. The writers of the Gospels were most-likely not eye-witnesses. We don’t know much about the authors as even the names are attributed after the fact, and not part of the documents. Why would Matthew and Luke have to rely on Mark if they were independent witnesses, anyway? And John…
A redacted collection of books about mythology do not give strong support for an historical person, let alone the stories, written much like the legends of the time (compare the story of Jesus to the stories of Mithra, for example). The Gospels do not look like history to me. They look like mythology. If that is all you have, then I’m afraid that I will have to judge your argument severely lacking.
The Gospels and Acts are cited by a series of reports, regularly employed to establish authorship of secular works; and when this test is applied to the Gospels, their authenticity is firmly established. This chain of testimony exists from the Epistle of Barnabas (a contemporary of Jesus and His disciples), the Epistle of Clement, and the Shepherd of Hermas, all the way to Eusebius. In fact, as has been repeatedly stated, there is better testimony for the authenticity of the New Testament books than for ANY classical work of antiquity.
Sadly, this doesn’t make any difference to atheists because they use a different standard for judging documents of antiquity IF they’ve been included into the New Testament. What is that standard you ask? Well, if any document from that time has been included into the New Testament, it’s judged to be a lie, a fiction, untrustworthy, tampered with etc. etc. The only criteria for the atheist’s exclusion of the work, is its inclusion into the New Testament.
Here are 84 facts, made by Luke in his Acts of the Apostles, that have been confirmed by historical and archaeological research. Only atheists can look at these confirmed facts and call it mythology. Only atheists would look at these confirmed facts and doubt that Luke was an eyewitness.
. The natural crossing between correctly named port (Acts 13:4,5
. The proper port (Perga) along the direct destination of a ship crossing from Cyprus (13:13
. The proper location of Lycaonia (14:6
. The unusual but correct declension of the name Lystra (14:6
. The correct language spoken in Lystra – Lycaonian 14:11
. Two gods known to be so associated – Zeus and Hermes 14:12
. The proper port, Attalia, which returning travellers would use 14:25
. The correct order of approach to Derbe and then Lystra from the Cilician Gates 16:1
. The proper form of the name Troas 16:8
. The place of a conspicuous sailors’ landmark, Samothrace 16:11
. The proper description of Philippi as a Roman colony 16:12
. The right location for the river Gangites near Philippi 16:13
. The proper association of Thyatira as a centre of dyeing 16:14
. Correct designations for the magistrates of the colony 16:22
. The proper locations (Amphipolis and Apollonia) where travellers would spend successive nights on this journey 17:1
. The presence of a synagogue in Thessalonica 17:1
. The proper term “politarchs” used of the magistrates there 17:6
. The correct implication that sea travel is the most convenient way of reaching Athens, with the favouring east winds for summer sailing 17:14-15
. The abundant presence of images in Athens 17:16
. The reference to a synagogue in Athens 17:17
. The depiction of the Athenian life of philosophical debate in the Agora 17:17
. The use of the correct Athenian slang word for Paul “spermologos”, 17:18 as well as for the court “Areios pagos” 17:19
. The proper characterization of the Athenian character 17:21
. And alter to an “unknown god” 17:23
. Areopagites as the correct title for a member of the court 17:34
. A Corinthian synagogue 18:4
. The correct designation of Gallio as proconsul, resident in Corinth 18:12
. The bema (judgment seat) which overlooks Corinth’s forum 18:16
. The name Tyronnus as attested from Ephesus in first-century inscriptions 19:9
. Well-know shrine and images of Artemis 19:24
. The well-attested “great goddess Artemis” 19:27
. That the Ephesian theatre was the meeting place of the city 19:29
. The correct title grammateus for the chief executive magistrate in Ephesus 19:35
. The proper title of honour “neokoros,” authorized by the Romans 19:35
. The correct name to designate the goddess 19:37
. The proper term for those holding court 19:38
. Use of the plural “anthupatoi,” a remarkable reference to the fact that two men were conjointly exercising the functions of proconsul at this time 19:38
. The “regular” assembly, as the precise phrase is attested elsewhere 19:39
. Use of precise ethnic designation, “beroiaios” 20:4
. Employment of the ethnic term “Asianos 20:4
. The implied recognition of the strategic importance assigned to this city of Troas 20:7
. The danger of the coastal trip in this location 20:13
. The correct sequence of places 20:14,15
. The correct name of the city as a neuter plural “Patara” 21:1
. The appropriate route passing across the open sea south of Cyprus favoured by persistent northwest winds 21:3
. The suitable distance between these cities 21:8
. A characteristically Jewish act of piety 21:24
. The Jewish law regarding Gentile use of the temple areas 21:28
. The permanent stationing of a Roman cohort “chiliarch” at Antonia to suppress any disturbance at festival times 21:31
. The flight of steps used by the guards 21:31,35
. The common way to obtain Roman citizenship at this time 22:28
. The tribune being impressed with Roman rather than Tarsian citizenship 22:29
. Ananias being high priest at this time 23:2
. Felix being governor at this time 23:34
. The natural stopping point on the way to Caesarea 23:31
. Whose jurisdiction Cilicia was in at the time 23:34
. The provincial penal procedure of the time 24:1-9
. The name Porcius Festus, which agrees precisely with that given by historians 24:27
. The right of appeal for Roman citizens 25:11
. The correct legal formula 25:18
. The characteristic form of reference to the emperor at the time 25:26
. The best shipping lanes at the time 27:5
. The common bonding of Cilicia and Pamphylia 27:4
. The principal port to find a ship sailing to Italy 27:5,6
. The slow passage to Cnidus, in the face of the typical north-west wind 27:7
. The right route to sail, in view of the winds 27:7
. The locations of Fair Havens and the neighbouring site of Lasea 27:8
. Fair Havens as a poorly sheltered roadstead 27:12
. A noted tendency of a south wind in these climes to back suddenly into a violent northeaster, the well-known gregale 27:13
. The nature of a square-rigged ancient ship, having no option but to be driven before a gale 27:15
. The precise place and name of this island 27:16
. The appropriate manoeuvers for the safety of the ship in its particular plight 27:16
. The fourteenth night – a remarkable calculation, based inevitably on a compounding of estimates and probabilities, confirmed in the judgment of experienced Mediterranean navigators 27:27
. The proper term of the time for the Adriatic 27:27
. The precise term “Bolisantes” for taking soundings and the correct depth of the water near Malta 27:28
. A position that suits the probable line of approach of a ship released to run before and easterly wind 27:39
. The severe liability on guards who permitted a prisoner to escape 27:42
. The local people and superstitions of the day 28:4-6
. The proper title “protos tes nesou” 28:7
. Rhegium as a refuge to await a southerly wind to carry them through the strait 28:13
. Appii Forum and Tres Tabernae as correctly place stopping places on the Appian Way 28:15
. Appropriate means of custody with Roman soldiers 28:16
. The conditions of imprisonment, living “at his own expense” 28:30,31
The exact same thing can be done with the Gospel of John. Yes atheists and only atheists can look at these confirmed facts and call it mythology. Atheists and only atheists can look at these confirmed facts and doubt that Luke was an eyewitness? It is only an anti-supernatural bias that would compel you to make such a claim.
thank you for identifying my bias without asking me my opinion.
BTW, I could list a number of facts within Spiderman, such as the existence of New York, but that does not make Spiderman real.
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