It’s one of the oldest faith questions: If there’s an all-powerful and loving God, why do human beings suffer?
In his latest book, religious studies professor Bart D. Ehrman wrestles with that question — and with the implications of the often-contradictory answers he finds. In God’s Problem: How the Bible Fails to Answer Our Most Important Question — Why We Suffer, Ehrman meditates upon how the Bible explains human suffering, why he finds the explanations unconvincing, and why he gave up on being a Christian.
Ehrman, author of Misquoting Jesus and more than a dozen other books, chairs the religious studies department at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill…
One of my favorite verses in the Bible is Romans 12:2 -
Do not be conformed to the pattern of this world but be transformed by renewing the mind…
One of the major patterns of thinking humanity has created and cultivated is religion. This, in most cases, includes a deity who is to be feared unless a long list of unattainable demands are met. Failure typically means spending eternity being relentlessly tortured.
Judaism follows this pattern. An ancient nomadic Middle Eastern tribe created a god who demanded blood and a long list of rituals in order that they would be forgiven of their transgressions. The description of the ritualistic slaughter of innocent animals and the amount of blood which flowed in the temple as a result of these sacrifices would make any modern day bloody thriller seem like a children’s movie. This god also gave divine direction to their conquests as he demanded the extermination of entire nations of people including babies, children, and animals. A Christian will tell you that this was required in order to somehow bring to an end to evil pagan practices such as sacrificing babies to idols. I think it’s a bit ironic that babies are killed in order to stop the killing of babies. How does that make sense?
Christianity continues to build on this pattern as God ended up having to sacrifice himself to himself as the ultimate penalty for man’s sin…
LeoPardus recently posted a few You might be a Fundy if… one-liners. Among them was:
You might be a Fundy if… God regularly opens up convenient parking spaces, JUST FOR YOU.
Well, it turns out that this is not far from what is being preached at one of the largest churches in America, Lakewood Church in Houston, Tx. According to a Slate Article by Chris Lehmann on Joel Osteen’s new book Become A Better You:
Joel Osteen’s God really wants you to dress well, stand up straight, and get a convenient parking space.
The article gave this analysis of Joel Osteen:
Joel has pointedly refrained from … really doing much biblical preaching at all. He has the wardrobe and tirelessly dapper mien of an oil industry lobbyist; it’s as a walking advertisement of the success creed, and not as any manner of prophet, that he’s made his name. “I’m not called to explain every minute facet of Scripture or to expound on deep theological doctrines or disputes that don’t touch where people live,” he writes dismissively in Become a Better You. “My gift is to encourage, to challenge, and to inspire…”
My former pastor had a favorite anecdote to share on why his flock should not look beyond the teachings of his faith camp in their studies. He relayed that the individuals who are responsible for discovering counterfeit money do not study the different counterfeits in order to learn about counterfeits. They ONLY focused on the real thing so when the counterfeit came along, they would immediately know it was not real. If they also studied counterfeits, they would be too confused as to what is real to be effective in their job. This admonishment was aimed at keeping the flock in subjection to his teachings and to discourage them from listening to those who were critical of the message of faith.
In response to the chaplain’s post Christian Education or Indoctrination?, Karen made this comment:
Education teaches people how to think; indoctrination teaches people what to think. All the religious instruction I went through as a child was distinctly of the latter variety. Even as an adult, I was warned not to educate myself about other religious beliefs. As I was questioning Christianity, I looked into Buddhism and Judaism and bought a couple of books on those topics. My husband objected that I was bringing evil spirits into our household and he did not want them physically “tainting” our home! The only way to learn about other religious beliefs “safely” was to take a course on world religions that a missionary group offered at our church. Of course, you can imagine how “objective” that course was – all other religions were presented as deceptions of Satan! There was absolutely no objective presentation of religious beliefs outside of Christianity…
As a Christian, New Years Day was always a very special day for me. It was the day I would turn my back on all the past mistakes of the previous year and pray that God would make me a better individual in the year to come. I forgot those things which were behind me and pressed on towards the prize of the higher calling.
However, now as a de-convert, I cannot simply forget any of my mistakes of the past year. It is my responsibility to make sure I deal with them in order to move ahead. I cannot simple “give them to God” and know that they have been cast into the sea of his forgetfulness where he and I would remember them no more. I cannot accept that that I can simply confess that there is now therefore no condemnation for those actions but if I deserve to be condemn, then I have to pay the necessary price.
Also, I cannot simply expect my invisible diety to help make me a better person, I have to make the choices to change areas of my life which I deem as needing improvement. In other words, the responsibility sits squarely on my shoulders. I have to admit that it was so much easier to give things to God than for me to accept now that they are my responsibility. Throwing away my crutch and standing on my own two feet is sometimes a difficult feat to accomplish…
Today is the day we set aside to celebrate the birth of Jesus. Even though there are many questions as to whether this event actually ever took place, we cannot deny the impact this story, related a few decades later in the gospels, has had on the world. This “good news” did not bring the promised peace on earth but resulted in wars and fear. However, as LeoPardus recently pointed out, there are some good things that can be attributed to the birth of the church.
As I meditate on the meaning Christmas used to hold for me, there is one particular point that I can no longer reconcile as rational. This event was supposed to be a demonstration of God’s unconditional love for man. That God, so loved the world, that he gave his only son, to die on a cross to redeem me from my sins and thus restoring me into a relationship with him.
Upon reading the scriptures, one cannot help but conclude that God’s love is anything but unconditional. The Old Testament is packed with what I will refer to as “if…then” statements. If you do a list of things, you will be blessed but if, on the other hand, you disobey you will be cursed. In many cases, the curses included genocide, violence, killings, diseases, sicknesses, fire and brimstone, floods, plagues, and a variety of other demonstration of God’s wrath and judgment. How can any of this be described as unconditional?…