Every Sunday, I look at a website called PostSecret. If you search it in google, you’ll find it. It’s a website where people send in anonymous secrets via post card. Anyway, this Sunday the postcard to my left was sent in. My guess is that if I were to probe deeper into why this person said ‘If I believed in God, I would hate him’, then I would probably come to the same conclusion.
Because most people who say these sort of things often have huge misconceptions about the character of God and who he is. I don’t need to tell you the sorts of things that people think God is/isn’t and turn out to be misconceptions. Or, maybe I do… but I’ll save that for another time.
Christians are often told to ask people about the God they don’t believe in. I don’t have a problem with that, it’s good for discussion because it provides and open forum to discuss the Christian God; Jesus.
The problem I have is that the bad image of God has, quite often, been created by Christians. That’s something we always need to be aware of. Let’s not be surprised and angry that people have misunderstood God, because we’re often the people who are confusing them.
What do you think God is like? How have you come to those conclusions? Would you ever change your mind?
Dean is a Minister in the Anglican Church. Currently he is Curate in the parishes of Bedwas, Machen, Michaelston-y-Fedw and Rudry in South Wales. He was born and bred in Wales, is married to Megan, and has two dogs called Taliesin and Melyn, and two cats named Sinsir and Hâf. He graduated from Cardiff University with a BA Hons. in Theology & Religious Studies, and has studied for an MA in Theology, Ministry & Mission at Trinity College Bristol. He also holds a Cert.RSCM from the Royal School of Church Music. He loves playing music, walking, reading, blogging and horse riding as well as going to the cinema and theatre.
Read More @ http://deanroberts.net/about
J and I were only discussing this today. We were talking about how many Christians we’ve come across recently think that everyone goes to heaven.
If Christians believe this we decided it showed a lack of understanding of the nature of God…and if Christians have misconceptions about God, what chance have non-Christians got?
Hi Dean, you seem to be making the point that Christians have created misunderstandings about the character of God here, <i>’The problem I have is that the bad image of God has, quite often, been created by Christians.’. I have read the Bible myself and therefore believe I have no misconceptions that arise directly as a result of what other people have told me. As an atheist who has read the Bible, I find it insulting when I quote the Bible and am told by Christians that I have either taken it out of context or misunderstood it. It sort of implies to me that they are trying to say that I am incapable of understanding it, whether I have read it or not.
Anyway, the point I am trying to make is that, without any misconception on my part, I think in the old testament that character of God is detestable. So if I may turn the question around so it is not being asked about God being evil in any way, do you honestly think that the character of God is a likeable one? Whose actions and demands upon his followers are to be worshipped and revered, and one that we should look to as the divine source of goodness?
Thanks for commenting, Lucy. Firstly, I think we all misunderstand the bible. Just because you read a book, it doesn’t mean you understand it. Christians wouldn’t spend their whole lives reading it, studying it, and, quite often, debating over it if the Bible was as straight forward to understand, as you seem to make out.
God’s character is a likeable one, yes, but, as you have pointed out already, I won’t be the first (or probably the last) person to say that the God of the OT has to be looked at in context, the priority of Israel in the OT and the various safeguards which were put in place to protect that chosen nation. It’s just too complicated to discuss on here. There’s a book called ‘Is God a moral monster’ which has apparently been a very big help to people, Christians and non Christians alike. 🙂
As the Bible is considered to be instructions from God I would agree that it is not as clear as it should be. That just brings me back to a point I made in a post a while back, about why God would allow his words to be altered, manipulated and corrupted through misunderstanding and mistranslation, etc.? It doesn’t seem to make sense that we can’t understand the Bible, considering it was written for us to live our lives based upon its teachings.
Anyway, that’s not the point I was making. The fact is, no amount of excuses about misunderstanding, mistranslations or ‘taking it out of context’ can justify the character of God. Certainly speaking as a woman, the Bible makes me feel inferior. In Judges 21:10-24, an entire town is slaughtered and virgins were repeatedly raped! I cannot see this as anything other than despicable. Numbers 31:18 – ‘Only the young girls who are virgins may live; you may keep them for yourselves.’ God also demands that a rape victim marry her attacker, who is never allowed to divorce her. There is no justification for that, none whatsoever. It also says in Deuteronomy 22:23-24 that if a girl doesn’t cry out for sex as she is being raped then she must be stoned to death. 2 Samuel 12:11 – ‘Thus says the Lord: ‘I will bring evil upon you out of your own house. I will take your wives while you live to see it, and will give them to your neighbor. He shall lie with your wives in broad daylight. You have done this deed in secret, but I will bring it about in the presence of all Israel, and with the sun looking down.’
Then David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.” Nathan answered David: “The Lord on his part has forgiven your sin: you shall not die. But since you have utterly spurned the Lord by this deed, the child born to you must surely die.’
Again, God allows rape. The women are clearly seen as this man’s property rather than human beings with any mind of their own. They are punished for their husbands wrongdoings. The husband is also allowed more than one wife – I’m very sure that no woman would be allowed to have more than one husband.
Deuteronomy 21:10-14 – ‘When you go out to war against your enemies and the LORD, your God, delivers them into your hand, so that you take captives, if you see a comely woman among the captives and become so enamored of her that you wish to have her as wife, you may take her home to your house. But before she may live there, she must shave her head and pare her nails and lay aside her captive’s garb. After she has mourned her father and mother for a full month, you may have relations with her, and you shall be her husband and she shall be your wife. However, if later on you lose your liking for her, you shall give her her freedom, if she wishes it; but you shall not sell her or enslave her, since she was married to you under compulsion.’ Yet again, women are seen as some sort of property, a second-class citizen with no opinion, choice, intelligence or emotion. How can this God possibly be a likeable character? Even in these few examples alone it is obvious that God has the potential to be monstrous and that the Bible can not have possibly been inspired by a divine being, but simply are a reflection of that society and morals of the time. I haven’t even gone into the mass slaughter of whole cities, whole races, slavery, animal cruelty, infanticide, murder and sacrifice. I understand, however, that no matter how many quotes I write, you will have a justification for every single one no matter how obscure. I also understand that no matter how many quotes I write, you will never see that the God of the Old Testament really is not a loving character. The Bible was written to inspire fear into people and to keep order in a time where there was no deeper explanation for anything. It’s the 21st century and it’s time we grew out of Biblical teachings, they don’t have a place in society any more. Any good morals we can get from the Bible we can get from civilisation and modernisation through society. Reading the Old Testament with an impartial and reasonable mind would make anybody see that God is cruel and unjust.
Lucy, have you read that book that I recommended yet? That’s my first question.
My second question is that how can you say that modernisation and progression are how we get our morals when things just seem to be getting worse and worse the more secular we go? Are you forgetting that this country is constitutionally built on the Christian faith?
And just to let you know – women are not men’s property nor are they second rate in the Christian faith. Of course, there will be some women in some churches that are treated in that way, but if you ask the majority of them, they will tell you otherwise, and they will have their reasons for doing so.
Apologies, I unfortunately have a very busy work life at the moment (which is also the reason I have been taking a while to reply), so haven’t had chance to sit down and read the book, I’ll let you know when I get round to it and post a message on what I think :).
I think that the Bible supports the fact that we get our morals from modern society. Simply be reading the Old Testament it is clear that Biblical morals are far from today. I also don’t agree with you that things seem to be getting worse and worse the more secular we get. This is a very vague and broad assumption to make but moreover I don’t think it’s true. If you are referring to the wars we are seeing at the moment then there has always been war, so that’s not really relevant.
In terms of everything else, I cannot understand what you could mean by saying things get worse and worse as we get more secular. Modern science has enabled us so much progression in the way of medicine, imagine what this progression could have been if religion never suppressed science. We are now treating diseases and eliminating diseases we never thought we could – this is an incredible achievement and definitely not one that indicates a society that is getting worse.
Going back even a within the last century racial and sexual discrimination and homophobia was rife. As we progress with secular discussion we come to realise that we are all equal and there should be no discrimination. Only secular reasoning could have lead humanity to this conclusion – religion certainly never would.
Take a look at America, it causes those people that take the Bible as inerrant to protest ‘God hates gays’. You may turn around and say they are not “true” Christians, but they believe themselves to be as Christian as you believe yourself to be. I see no situation in which a secular society would not hold prejudices such as this.
And as for the Biblical treatment of women, you are most definitely not looking upon this with an impartial view to believe that women are not seen as a man’s property. It states that if a woman has no indication of her virginity when she first has sex with her husband she must be put to death! Men are allowed to be polygamous – we don’t allow that with our modern society, we recognise women as equal.
If a man is found sleeping with another man’s wife, both the man who slept with her and the woman must die. You must purge the evil from Israel. – Deuteronomy 22:22.
To say we have gone ‘worse and worse’ as secular society has progressed is outright ludicrous. Historically people have been put to death in this country for simply ‘being Protestant’ or ‘being Catholic’. We’ve grown out of that now as society progresses away from religion. As Karl Marx so nicely put it, religion is merely the opiate of the masses, and always has been.
Don’t take a lot of what is sent to Post Secret too seriously. Many(dare I say MOST?) people who sent things in are, going by the content of their postcards, are at various points of severe crisis in their lives, and in situations like that, people often overstate their feelings especially ones driven by anger.
In any case, any right-thinking person would hate the God of the OT if one didn’t realize that it’s nothing more than an ancient attempt to reconcile their understanding of the world, how it and they came to be, their place in it and where they were going. Taken in that light, it’s a much more agreeable text.
Maybe – but the message of my post is still the same 🙂
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