The violent one god

This is not a bashing of christians nor its teachings, but rather there is a lot of information on the issue of the bible and homosexuality, than say Judaism or Islam or other religious teachings.  What I say should apply to any religious of the same streak, not just christianity. In here, when I use christian, I also mean catholics. Let’s start…

I am often surprised to read or hear comments from christians that they are surprised that the mega churches and small churches like COOS wants to create a christian Singapore and impose its values of hatred and bigotry onto the non-christians and indeed other christians. Don’t they know their own christian history or are they that ignorant of the centuries of violence, discrimination and killings that had occur using god and scriptures as a justification?

People who believed in science were killed by the church to stop them from question god and s0-called witches where burnt because their religious practice is disliked by the church.  In recent history, the churches have used god and their scriptures to vilify communists, support segregation, keep slavery in place, prevent inter-racial marriage, suppress women and now to condemn homosexuals. The Nazi who also believe in christ and god, had used the work of Martin Luther (who vilified the Jews based on his biblical interpretation) to justify antisemitism.

One must indeed wonder what is it in the teachings that is promoting hatred, discrimination, violence and anger for more than 2,000 over years and even far back in history in the time of mosses and leviticus.

Well-meaning christians who support gay people will tell you that the homophobic interpretation of the scriptures are incorrect. They would often explain why Sodom and Gomorrah is not about punishing gay sex, but rather those who violated ancient rules of hospitality. And Paul’s letter was not about man should not be sleeping with another man, rather its against cult worship and temple prostitution. Then you have passages from leviticus which they will tell you are based on old Hebrew laws and superseded by the new gospels.

Unfortunately, in defending against discrimination against homosexuals in the scriptures, well-meaning christians seems to accept valued judgment of other behaviors and too ready to accept violence, condemnation and killings of other beings just because they don’t conform to christian laws (which are of course not homophobic, they stress). So in defending against the condemnation of homosexuals, they condemn the people in Sodom and Gomorrah and also those spoken of in Paul’s letters.

I am sure not all inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah are guilty of the crime in which the whole city were burnt to the ground. There may be other guests, young children and animals amongst those kill in the cities. Furthermore, so what if they are indeed guilty, was it right to kill people off because they went against their god’s laws? If it is justified to kill people off because they flouted god’s laws, then what is stopping someone else from interpret god’s law and start killing off black people, gay people and Jews?

How can they who are so against people judging homosexuals and condemning them, also agree on the same condemnation and judging against other people using the same valued judgment?

I have yet heard of any christians who can categorically declare that all the violence and killings within their scriptures are unacceptable and incorrect. For as long as they are willing to accept sanctioned violence, discrimination, hatred and killing within their scriptures based on their christian value judgment, then there will always be violence, discrimination, hatred and killing of people whom people will interpret as going against their christian values.

The biggest problem I feel is that many christians are not able to reconcile the amount of violence, discrimination and hatred in their scriptures with those of love, compassion and understanding.

You cannot preach peace, if you keep going to war

You cannot preach love, if it only goes to those who believe

You cannot preach compassion, if hell exists to punish sinners

You cannot preach understanding, if you keep judging people based on your values.

This is not different from the muslim world declaring that its wrong to kill innocent people for Islam’s cause. However, they don’t declare that its wrong to kill, as long as not the innocent. The interpretation then is one who is innocent or not in the eyes of different muslims. As such the cycle of violence against the non-innocent (which is a valued judgement) will always be there.

The most classic example is that of mosses and the trouble he and his god caused in Egypt. In the story, innocent Egyptians are tortured and their first born are killed just because their pharaoh refused to budge to mosses’ demands. How do christians view this story? Whether it real or not, do they think that its justified to torture and kill innocent civilians so that god’s power could be noticed?

Another classic example is that of Eve, apparently she was punished with the pain of child birth because she disobeyed god. Its been thousands of years since Eve (if the story is true) and women are still having labor pains. What kind of god can be so unforgiving?

Even in the gospels, you have story of  jesus  driving demons into pigs and then drove those pigs to rivers and killed them. If that is not violence against animals, I don’t know what is that.

Some will say that we cannot believe in the literal stories in the bible. If that is true, then how do you pick and choose what should be literally understood and what are just parables and stories? Is the resurrection literal or a story? How do one then choose one part to be literal but some parts to be just stories.

Even if they are stories, are all the violence, killings and discrimination justified?

The hell question is probably even more difficult for a lot of christians to defend. Hell to many christians is a place for sinners and disbelievers, those who don’t accept god nor follow his bidding.  How many well-meaning christians tell you that the concept of hell is incorrect and unacceptable in a teaching of love and compassion? Actually at least one can, John Shelby Spong.

Interestingly, when you listen to Spong talk about hell and being human in his other speech, it runs a very similar thread to some Buddhist teachings.

Actually, even Buddhist teachings which does not sanction violence, discrimation, killings or valued judgement at all, can over the centuries be misinterpreted to support those such as in Sri Lanka, old Tibet, the Dalai Lama “understanding” of homosexuality, Japan during it fascist period, Korean, Burma, Thailand, etc.

What more if teachings sanction violence, discrimination and killing through valued judgment in one form or another?

Correcting the misinterpretation of the teachings is only 1/100 of the job done. To eradicate any form of discrimination, violence, hatred and bigotry, christians must not condone any violence, killings and discrimination based upon valued judgment and must eradicate all forms of sanctioned violence of the mind and of the flesh from their teachings. If not its just a shallow idea of love, diversity and tolerance.

So gay christians and supports alike cannot blame anyone from interpreting their scriptures and discriminating against them as long as they continue to support concepts of violence and sanctioned violences based on christian moral judgment within their scriptures.

Note: that I deliberately spelled god in lower case. Spelling it with an upper case G is giving it too much credit

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19 thoughts on “The violent one god

  1. I think the problem arises when some (both Christians and non-Christians alike) interpret the Bible text literally. Firstly, it is not a historical document. Secondly, it did not fall from the heavens, beautifully bound in burgundy leather and in large print English (with words of Christ in red, no less). While some might claim that the scriptures were “divinely” inspired, they were undoubted written down by human hand (and before writing was invented, the stories were passed down through the generations by a vocal tradition). The original texts have been translated from Aramaic to Greek, Latin and many other languages. Therefore, with all that word-of-mouth transmission, translation/copying of text through the generations, etc. one should realize that the Bible as we know it today, was shaped very much by the history, place and cultures of the people at that time and should not be taken literally, especially as the inerrant word of God. Is the Bible then worthless as a spiritual guide? I don’t think so; however, it does require a critical and questioning mind (as much as equal measures of faith and humility) to uncover its wisdom, for much of it is hidden in parables and metaphors. Unfortunately, there will always be misguided individuals who will interpret the Bible literally and use it for their own purposes, e.g. to exercise power and control over others under the guise of “religion” (and what’s even sadder, the legions of mindless sheep that follow them blindly). However, what these people do has nothing to do with God or Christianity (even as they would like to believe otherwise). For God is about selfless and unconditional Love and not instead about discrimination, fear, guilt, hate, ignorance, prejudice and violence. Likewise, Christianity is about acceptance, compassion, forgiveness, humility, inclusiveness and peace. And furthermore, Christianity does not have a monopoly of these good things; I believe these values are all in the hearts of Judaism, Islam and Buddism as well. How hard is it to understand “do not judge?” How hard is it to understand “love thy neighbour as yourself”? How hard is it to understand “do unto others what you would have others do unto you?” All these are in the Bible and yet there those, who by their own words and actions, deny the same God they profess to believe in and serve. Therefore, do not be deceived; not all who call themselves Christians are what they claim to be (perhaps hypocrites and “modern-day pharisees” would be more appropriate). And they are not new, the Bible is full of them too.

  2. Hi Arendar,

    I think you may have missed the point I am trying to make. Its not about whether or not the bible is just stories or literal truth.

    Its whether christians themselves (even the most liberal ones) believed in sanctioned violence, killings and discrimination againsts others in their teachings, in concepts such as hell, mosses story and burning of Sodom and Gomorrah.

    My point is as long as christians themselves does not refuted sanctioned violence, then it will always exists within the religion

  3. Dear K,

    I don’t think we are in disagreement.

    My point is that some people (Christians and non-Christians alike) who misinterpret and take the Bible literally as the inerrant “word of God” are more likely to extrapolate from that which may be allegory, hyperbole, parable, metaphor, etc. and force their literal (and simplistic) interpretation into actual practice.

    Consider how absurd (and tragicomic) if the following were interpreted literally and carried out to its extreme, grievious conclusion:

    “If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out. And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than to have two feet and be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell”. (Mark 9:43-46)

    Imagine all those poor, simple and literal-minded folks with their self-inflicted wounds, moaning through the rest of their (hopefully, less sinful) lives…!

    I believe no sane person would interpret the above literally and/or use it as a justification for self-mutilation (under the guise of faith and piety); that would be unbelievably stupid and retarded.

    And yet, there are those who will mindlessly commit the same error of interpreting the Biblical text literally and to use it somehow to justify discrimination, persecution, violence, etc. In my opinion, there is nothing “Christian” in such warped thinking that accepts discrimination, persecution and violence against others.

    And as we have seen from recent developments, it is only be too easy for some “wolves in sheep’s clothing” to “hijack” organisations and even religions, to usurp their legitimacy (and under that disguise) to serve their own less noble ends and purposes.

    Therefore, to avoid being caught up in the controversy of different claims and msinterpretations, I think it is important for Christians to focus on the key principles, i.e. the central tenets of their faith, which is selfless and unconditional love, of both God and neighbour (including their “enemies” which by the very definition of selfess and unconditional love, there could really be none). If they truly believe in this “selfless and unconditional love” (as exemplified by Christ’s humility and sacrifice on the cross) and can put it into practice in their daily lives, then there will be no room for any discrimination, fear-mongering, hate, prejudice, violence, etc. and all the negativity that is anathema to a “Christ-like” nature.

  4. Hi Arendar,

    But isn’t the central tenet of the faith one of salvation through christ/god? What about those who don’t believe in christ/god? What happens to them?

    And do you believe the concept of hell is acceptable in the central tenet?

  5. Dear K,

    In my opinion, there is an (erroneous) assumption that only “Christians” will be saved and that all the “unbelievers” will be consigned to hell. Again, I suspect this misconception might be the result of a simplistic, literal reading of the Bible.

    Consider this:

    “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ (Matthew 7:21-23)

    Not all who profess to be “Christians”, (especially the hypocrital ones crying out “Lord, Lord”, etc.) are are on the right side of salvation. On the other hand, those who do not believe in God BUT yet live their lives exhibiting a “Christ-like” nature, e.g. showing forgiveness, humility, kindness, love, mercy, patience, selflessness, etc. (i.e. “he who does the will of my Father…) are certainly on the right path.

    “Is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles too? Yes, of Gentiles too, since there is only one God, who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith.” (Romans 3:29-30)

    Love is the central tenet of Christianity; God IS Love. Therefore, if one is able to love selflessly and unconditionally, I believe one is on the right path to salvation/transcendence regardless of one’s professed faith/religion/life philosophy.

  6. The notion of “hell” is certainly contentious, as with the idea of “the devil”; they have been a “stumbling block” for those who regard them as antithetical to the entire concept of a loving God. For myself, I find it more useful NOT to regard “hell” and “the devil” in the literal sense but as “allegory and metaphor”; just because they are mentioned in the Bible does not mean that they are real; they are symbolic representations of some deeper meaning/hidden truth that we will discover when we become more enlightened. While I certainly have no empirical evidence of this at the moment (only faith), I would like to cite 3 parables in support of my belief:

    The Parable of the Lost Sheep:

    “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbours together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent. (Luke 15:4-7)

    The Parable of the Lost Coins:

    “Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Does she not light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbours together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’ In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” (Luke 15:8-10)

    The Parable of the Prodigal Son:

    Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them. “Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no-one gave him anything. “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.’ So he got up and went to his father. “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate. “Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’ “The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’ “‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.'” (Luke 15:11-32)

    So the good shepherd will not rest until he finds his lost sheep; the woman will not stop searching in the dark until she recovers her lost coin and the loving father will always forgive and even defend his prodigal son, regardless of the latter’s transgressions.

    If mere mortals can behave this way, then what of God, an almighty, supreme Being, Creator of all things?

    Why would God, the heavenly Father allow some of his earthly children to “fall into sin” (presumably under the temptation of “the devil”, yet another of His creations) such that they are forever lost and abandoned in “hell” (which He also created)? Wouldn’t this seem rather “disingenious” and reflect badly, i.e. “a failure” on the part of the Creator Himself (even suggesting that perhaps He was not as “almighty and all-knowing” a supreme being as originally claimed)? Is God that dumb AND evil? I am being facetious here.

    Or perhaps there is another simpler explanation: “the devil” and “hell” as mentioned in the Bible are not what they are (literally) made out to be? And perhaps they would make more sense if treated as “allegory and metaphor”?

    And lastly:

    “Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
    (Luke 11:11-13)

    God IS Love!

  7. Hi Arendar

    I only wished you were there at my grandma’s funeral, who died a Christian…

    At the service, which was attended by non-Christians as well (including my other 90 year old grandma), the pastor did nothing but harped on how my dearly departed grandma has accepted Christ and is now in heaven, but for everyone else who hasn’t yet, they will burn in hell…

    Can you imagine the discomfort he heaped on the non-Christians when he kept repeating that claim over and over again?

    Instead of a service, he turned it into a fear-mongering sermon…WTF!

    What made it worse was that he was well aware that the service was also attended by non-Christians…

  8. Hi xtrocious,

    I think a lot of us have had such painful and hard to swallow experience too. Some are even done when the patient is dying at the hospital!

    Anyway, as for the part about going to hell, I have something to write about that soon, hope it will help you think about it in another way.

  9. Dear xtroxious,

    I am sorry for your loss and your experience. I am not defending the thoughtless actions of the churlish, but I hope you will not think badly of Christians and “their God”.

    Remember, it was the very people whom Christ tried to save, i.e. the religious leaders of the time, who had condemned him. These people of religious authority could not have been more wrong. And yet, even as he was being crucified, what did Christ say? “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

    Hate is not the answer to fear and ignorance, to discrimination and prejudice, to persecution and violence, but a Love that conquers all.

  10. And some Biblical warnings against false teachers and self-righteous hypocrites:

    “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written: “‘These people honour me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.’ You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men.” (Mark 7:6-8)

    “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness. (Matthew 23:27-28)

  11. Hi Arendar,

    Actually you did not directly answer my question in both replies.

    Indeed, not all christian will be saved. My question is what happens to those who are not saved?

    You pointed out “but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven”. So what happens to those who does not do his will?

    Then again you repeat in 3 parables the same message “…there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” & “…more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent”

    So what happens to those who does not repent?

  12. Dear K,

    I thought I did; nevertheless, I apologize that I took so long to make my point and if it was unclear.

    The reason why I cited the 3 parables in this:

    I believe that NO one, (Christian or non-Christian) will be “lost”, i.e. condemned to eternal damnation in some (literal) hell. Again, I do not have any empirical evidence for this (except faith; cue George Michael and his guitar). Now, this does not mean that we can all misbehave. It means that, depending on our own choices, the way to God, i.e. the path to salvation/transcendence, etc. might take “longer” for some than others (e.g. compare the “prodigal son’s” experience with that of the other son who had stayed by his father’s side).

    Think of God not as “the violent one god” but rather as the good father, waiting anxiously in the fields for his dear prodigal son to return, that he may put the best robe on him, and to gladly embrace and kiss him once again.

    Now does that not sound like a loving God, the almighty supreme Creator of all things?

    🙂

  13. hmm… this still leaves the question, if someone never repents, what happens to them when they die?

    If no one will be lost, than what is the point of being christian?

    Still, some question remained unanswered. What is your view of the story of mosses freeing the Jews and burning of Sodom and Gomorrah, regardless if they are real or not?

    Also whether the idea of hell is literal or not, doesn’t its existence within the tenet sanctions fear and violence against sinners? If not, how can one define heaven without hell?

  14. Dear K,

    The point of being a Christian, is the same as being a Jew, Muslim, Buddhist, etc. different paths to the same destination, i.e. salvation/transcendence.

    If God is indeed the loving, wise, almighty supreme Creator of all things He is, I believe He would have made more than one way for ALL his children to reach Him (but again, I have no empirical evidence…so “cue George Michael and his guitar again”).

    The events recounted in Exodus, Sodom and Gomorrah, etc. I can neither confirm nor validate (since I was obviously not around at that time). However, as I mentioned earlier, the Biblical texts are not a “historical” document and should not be read (again literally) as such; imagine reading “Genesis” seriously as world history! And neither should the Bible be treated as an “alternative scientific treatise” to cosmology.

    I can believe in God without the devil (as His “adversary”, the fallen angel Lucifer/Satan). In my opinion, “the devil” is a metaphor, i.e. a symbol representing that part of ourselves which tempts us to misbehave when we know that it is wrong. (We should not blame “the bogeyman” when we choose to misbehave.)

    I can believe in a heaven/salvation/transcendence for ALL humankind without the need for a “hell” and “eternal damnation”; these are an allegory for those who choose the longer, more challenging “scenic route” to God (i.e. parable of the prodigal son).

    “Why, the journey was hell; took like forever to get here, dammit!”

  15. Two books that were published over 2,000 years ago have had major influence on how people on this planet live their lives and behave or relate to one another. They are the Confucian Analects and the Holy Bible (along which should be mentioned the Qu’ran, which has one-third shorter history).

    These books have had their rise and fall in socio-political dominance depending on the powers of the times, but generally they have kept up their presence in the public consciousness and awareness for over two millenia.

    A good score to keep is to count the number of lives lost and atrocities arising out of the applications of the teachings in these books in the societies where they had influence in.

    I think the difference in casualty numbers is closely corelated to the amount and use of fear, hatred and animosity in the rhetorics employed in these books.

  16. Guns do not kill people; it is people who kill people.

    Similarly, books, scriptures, etc. do not interpret themselves.

  17. Arendar,

    What you say may be correct, but what Brick was saying is that why after 2,000 over years (and more) are there still continuous violence based around teachings of the book? If love, compassion, kindness, etc is such a pronounced part of the teachings, why after 2,000 years, they still don’t get it?

    Whereas compared to other teachings like Confucianism and Buddhism, violence and hatred is comparatively absent.

    Honestly, I wished that the majority of the people of the book have same approach to your teachings like you, but if you look at the stats, I believe that you are probably the 1 % of 99% who reads it this way. Are the 99% incorrect and you the 1% correct in your interpretation after 2,000 years?

    Also I think its tad bit egoist to think that all religions have the same destination to the one god… well certainly one should not include Buddhism into that clump. This is a result superficial understanding of Buddhist teachings, but then that is a topic to talk about some other times.

  18. Dear K,

    As I commented earlier, the Bible (and other codified religious scriptures/teachings, e.g. Torah, Quran, etc.) do not obviously interpret (or misinterpret) themselves but rather, it is human beings who do so, some rather wilfully, to justify themselves and serve their own purposes, e.g. to exercise power and control over others. I think the fact that we as a species are still lacking in love, compassion, kindness, etc. after so many years is more a testament to the enduring persistence of human ignorance, greed and selfishness.

    It seems to me that these ills may be perpetuated by the misconception that we need to be constantly grasping and striving, to “be” or to achieve something important in order to be “successful” (and for our lives to be “meaningful”) when all that is required is for us to look within ourselves and see whether there is love (as opposed to desire) in our hearts.

    I apologize if I appear “a tad bit egoist” and if I have caused offense; that was never my intention. In my mind, there appears to be a common thread linking religions such as Christianity, Judaism, Islam, etc. (including life philosophies such as Buddhism) in that they all essentially seek an end to human suffering, to transform and uplift humanity through enlightenment and transcendence in one form or other.

    Tt does not really matter whether we agree if “all such paths lead to God”. What is more important is that we learn to love selflessly and to cultivate loving-kindness, compassion and understanding in our own lives and chosen paths.

  19. Hi Arendar,

    I totally agree with you on the last sentence. I am glad that you are able to see a different thread which a majority of people subscribing to the same base don’t.

    Don’t worry about the “egoistic” part, I take no offence, just needed to point out something.

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