Monday, August 7, 2017

Why You Worship a False god (Part One)

Let me just say upfront that I'm probably going to lose a lot of you with this "discussion," and not because of the offensive material but because of the metaphysical material. My experience is that people don't tend to be able to keep up. For example, my first college roommate was a Calvinist (you can look it up), but he was a Calvinist because he didn't understand the doctrine of predestination or what they mean by it. In his mind, since "god" knows everything, "god" also causes everything to happen. There is no free will. Foreknowledge equated control. Basically, "god" was upstairs with puppet strings attached to everything, and no one had any choices about anything.

How boring.

The problem was that he really just couldn't see the difference between foreknowledge and complete predestination (of everything) no matter how many times or how many ways people (not just me) tried to explain it to him. Some of the people who tried to explain it to him also didn't understand the differences in the concepts; they just knew that they had been told that Calvinism was wrong.

I only bring this up because it relates. We're going to talk about God and Time and why your god isn't actually God. And, sure, that part might be offensive, but I'm pretty sure I'm going to lose most of you way before we get far enough along for you to be offended. Unless, of course, you're already offended.

So let's start with something pretty basic:
For god to be God, He has to be outside of time, the maker of Time. That's pretty standard thought nowadays, in theory, at least among "christian" theologians, so I'm probably not losing anyone yet, theoretically. Until we get to the part where we're dealing with what it means to be outside of Time, but I'm not got to get into that, because that's kind of like asking a fish what it's like to be outside of water. And the fact that most of you probably don't get the part where Time is not some linear stream that has always existed.

Maybe you're wondering why that even matters, but it matters in that, for god to be God, He has to be omniscient, and He can't be omniscient from within Time. To know everything, you have to be outside of everything, including Time.

And it matters because of sin.

Before I go on, let me state quite clearly that I am NOT just talking about Christianity here. I'm also talking about Judaism and Islam. It's all the same god, and all three religions suffer from the same issue: sin.

Here's where we start getting tricky...

Men are linear creatures, time-wise; therefore, our views of people tend to be pretty tied into whatever they did last. The quality of a person is based on his/her most recent actions. That's the linear view.

And that's the view religious people, of whatever religion, tend to take, too, hence all of the sin, repent, repeat nonsense. Because you can't go to heaven if you have sin, and you're only as good as your last repentance.

Christianity, theoretically, deals with this issue. Jesus was intended to be the one and only sacrifice that would wipe sin from your life both backwards and forwards. Hebrews 10:10 -- "...we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all." The idea for the need for constant repentance (sacrificing) has been dealt with by the one sacrifice of Jesus, so sacrifices are no longer needed. Provided, of course, that you accept the One sacrifice of Christ as your own. This is what the writer of Hebrews is saying. [Note: The writer of the book of Hebrews is unknown, but it was almost certainly NOT Paul. The asshole.]

Of course, the writer of Hebrews couldn't reconcile this idea with himself and, a few verses later, says that, basically, since you've been forgiven of your sins -- all of them past, present, and future -- don't ever sin again. I mean, if you're accepting the grace of God but, then, go out and sin again anyway, you deserve to go to straight to hell. STRAIGHT TO HELL, I tell you! Because he couldn't take himself out of a linear mindset despite the words of Jesus himself claiming to be the one and only sacrifice ever needed.

This is where we run into some problems, because neither Judaism not Islam have any mechanism for dealing with sin in a non-linear fashion. Their god is completely Time-linear and can only deal with men based upon their most recent actions. This causes two problems:
1. You have a man who has lived a horrible, despicable life full of sin and mayhem. The worst possible person you can think of. But, shortly before his death, he "sees the light," repents, offers the appropriate sacrifices, then dies and goes to heaven. [And some of you are saying, "But that's the great power of "god" and his offer of forgiveness to man!]
2. You have a man who has lived a pretty great life of being good and just to other men as much as possible. A true saint among men whom everyone looks up to. But he "stumbles" and commits some sin or other and, before he can repent or make the appropriate sacrifice or whatever, dies suddenly. Because he dies with sin, he is denied heaven. AND GOD CAN'T DO A DAMN THING ABOUT IT! Just, oops! That's too bad, but you have sin and can't come in.

Let me tell you, that's the kind of god I want to follow. One who is bound up in his own arbitrary rules and inability to see beyond the same linear timeline as man.

You "Christians" can stop patting yourselves on the back, because, in a lot of ways, you're even worse. Probably in the most important ways, you're worse.
But we'll talk about that next time.


  1. I love thinking about time. How it might really work if our perception wasn't limited by our brain meats. Honestly, I find that easier to understand than all the religious stuff.

    1. Jeanne: That's because the religious stuff makes absolutely no sense and requires one to believe in... well, magic is too good a word for what it requires one to believe.

  2. This is one of the myriad reasons I gave up being a Christian. Not that we were all that devout to begin with...

    I'm of the personal belief that we can have predestiny and free will at the same time. I know, the two ideas cancel each other out. But I find that the deeper truths contain inherent paradoxes, and being able to hold both ideas at the same time leads to a deeper understanding. And the deeper truths are funny.

    1. Liz: That depends on what you mean by predestiny, I suppose.

    2. Ah yes, good point. If something is "fated" and you choose not to follow it, then while it was predestined, you still used your free will to make a choice.

    3. Liz: I see what you're saying, but that's more of a romanticized way of taking the word. In the sense it's used in religion, or, at least, in "Christianity," you don't actually have the will to do anything other than what you have predestined to do.

  3. These are some heady ideas.

    I've also come to the conclusion that a God who acts like the one you describe in your examples isn't much of a God. That's not to say that God couldn't be like that; we don't really know what God might say about either of those examples, and can only glean ideas from the Bible and the world around us.

    But I don't want to believe in a God who is basically the Genie from Aladdin -- waiting to trip you up with word games, depending on esoteric rules, acting arbitrarily. I don't understand why anyone WOULD want to worship such a God, unless forced to do so -- upon penalty of eternal damnation and torture, I guess? But a God who sets up a universe in which you can spend eternity being tortured for technical violations -- sinning and repenting but not completing the penance the priest gave you, say: If you steal money and confess and are told to give the money back and say a dozen Hail Marys but get hit by a car as you are taking the money back, having said only 6 of the Hail Marys?-- is that the kind of God people WANT to believe in?

    I've really wrestled with my religious beliefs over the past couple of years, stuff I won't discuss publicly, but what I think I can say about religious beliefs in general is that they are mostly manipulated to achieve an end; it's comforting to me to think about religion in a way that accepts me for who I am. It's important for the Catholic Church to get people to think about religion in a way that keeps the Catholic Church important. And so on.

    I think I'm rambling. I'm interested to see where this series of articles goes. I like the idea of God being outside of time; I never thought of that before. (It so happens I have been thinking about time, and time travel, a lot lately, so that struck a nerve.)

    Thoughtful, as always.

  4. Briane: Right now, it's just two posts. It was only supposed to be one, but it was really too long to expect (most) people to read the whole thing, so I broke it in two.

    My struggle with religion has led me to decide that all religions are false. Not that "God" is false, but religions are. They're too corporeal, too temporal. They're all based on some anthropomorphised god, and, if you're god is just some caricature of humans, it's no god at all. People who think they have "God" all figured out are deluded or lying, and I don't know which is worse.

  5. Sorry it took me so long to stop by and see what's up. I got your note from Goodreads the other day and it just took me this long to read your post.

    I like your thoughts here. Religion is... frustrating. The hell for all non-Christians concept is tough too. I mean, Jefrey Dahlmer, I suppose, is sitting in the glory of God at this exact moment since he got 'saved' just before his murder while awaiting execution - and Ghandi is roasting in hell due to his lack of faith in Jesus. That his life was dedicated to peace and good will towards all of us counts for less than nothing. That's tough to square with me.

    What I do get out of all this, is that if there is a god, he, she, or it, doesn't seem overly concerned in straightening out our religious disputes - which means everyone is most likely doing it very wrong, because he/she/it doesn't care very much one way or another.

    1. Rusty: No worries.

      Of course, Christianity does all kinds of gymnastics to get around all of these issues, but that stuff only works for people who don't use their brains. Which they pat themselves on the back for doing. Or not doing, as the case may be.

      But even C.S. Lewis knew that the idea that someone like Gandhi would go to Hell was ridiculous.