Monday, April 8, 2013

Let Us Create God In Our Image, In Our Likeness

I don't think it's coincidental that America is pretty much the only free, advanced, civilized western society that still enforces capital punishment (in many states and MOST bible-belt states) and is also home to most of the fundamentalist Christians in the world. American fundamentalist Christianity has created God in their own image. As a friend says, "The practice of our belief and faith is the reflection of our God", and fundamentalists see God as vengeful, hateful, judgmental, and intolerant. The image on our side of the mirror is seen in our religious endeavors, personal interactions, and positions on social and political issues.

The "gospel" of the fundamentalist God is more or less "Love me!...or I'll kill you forever, except you won't'll just live in the torment of the second death." I have a hard time seeing a difference between the fundamentalist God and the serial killer in The Silence of the Lambs - "It puts on the lotion!!!" Seriously. I mean, the fundamentalist God is only satisfied by blood. Innocent blood at that. To the point that he had his own innocent son killed to save the rest of us...essentially from him. It isn't like we were invited to the planning table for this game of life and afterlife. It's all the fundamentalist God's creation. Mind you, in saying this, I'm not advocating for or against the Christian faith, but rather hoping to provoke some thought about it. I AM, however, most certainly and passionately advocating against the American Jesus and the American fundamentalist God.

I'm still rather frequently hit with looks of shock, horror, and dismay, and the "You pick and choose from the bible?!" line whenever I discuss matters of religion, faith, and the bible. As has been my answer for a while now, YES, I do. The question that most often follows is "How do you decide what's true and what isn't?!" My answer is pretty simple. If God is truly good, truly lovable, then I can pretty much discount the parts of the bible that portray God as an asshole or as an entity less decent than me. Why would anyone worship ANY "Supreme Being" that isn't or wasn't a million times better than they are? The OT God does things I could never do in good conscience, makes demands I could never make in good conscience, has faaaar less patience than me, is faaaar less forgiving than I am, is considerably more petty and openly self-centered than I am...and I'm no saint (although not deserving of eternal torment even on my worst day). I mean, dude treated Moses like CRAP. Think about it.

People gotta stop worshiping "the bible". It's a violent book (at least the first two-thirds of it) which conveys a largely violent, compulsive, and petty God. I haven't read the Quran, but I'd have a hard time believing it could be as violent, overall, as our own Old Testament, and I'm a firm believer that if our own New Testament included as much as one single line encouraging believers to kill unbelievers, fundamentalism in America would be less about political militancy and ignorance and more about physical violence. Fundamentalist Christians are THAT committed to the culture, so much so that they don't even really need a Jesus to maintain the culture, because (as I've said before), the culture is their Jesus, their salvation. God can seemingly only speak to them through a collection of books, because that collection becomes the barometer for everything that speaks to them, and the box into which they try to put everyone else. Something's only ok because "the bible" says it's ok. Something's only wrong because "the bible" says it's wrong. The rest of us in America are often held hostage to this form of religious addiction, imbibling, and moral paralysis.

No decent God would require you to be stupid. So stop being stupid. Please.

If I were God, and I were a truly good, truly loving God, I expect I'd be looking down at all the world's religions going "What the...?!"


  1. I've often thought this same way. Some of the accounts in the Old Testament just run counter to what I would have believed a god of love and mercy would have done. (I'm also curious to know how you think God treated Moses like crap. Not allowing him to enter the promised land was a punishment for his lack of faith. Perhaps a bit harsh, but the concept of punishment seems justified to me) And parts of the New Testament I don't quite feel jive with Christ's message of love and tolerance. I've often thought most of Paul's letters were about Paul trying to bring his religious legalism into Jesus's message.

    But where I'm going is this: If you pick and chose parts of the Bible, then you're essentially saying that there are parts of the Bible that are wrong or that aren't valid. I think the major principle of the Bible is its supposed uniform truth and validity. Both Peter and Paul wrote that the scriptures were divinely inspired (in reference to the Old Testament). If you start dissecting your Bible, you're left with the question of "what is truly true?"

    It sounds as if you're doing the very title of your post, well sort of. Rather than remake God in your image, you're cutting up the Bible to remake God in the image that you feel he should be in. Let me ask you: If you believe that parts of the Bible can be thrown out and disregarded because they don't fit your idea of how God should be, how do you know that the passages you're keeping are right? Either the whole of the bible is valid or none of it is. If you're going to cut it up, you may as well just open Word and write your own religious text defining God the way you believe he should be.

    1. "If you believe that parts of the Bible can be thrown out and disregarded because they don't fit your idea of how God should be, how do you know that the passages you're keeping are right? Either the whole of the bible is valid or none of it is. If you're going to cut it up, you may as well just open Word and write your own religious text defining God the way you believe he should be."

      I liken it to a news broadcast. We aren't guaranteed that everything they report will be accurate. Some of it is accurate, some of it is factually deficient, some is a mix of both, and some is painted with nothing more than the opinion of the reporter.

      The biblical canon was created as a means of and to control. That doesn't invalidate all of it, but it does invalidate the ideas and designs of those who have created and recreated it over the years. I'm not a slave to it or to them. The idea that the bible is a single, perfect organism is an idea birthed by fundamentalism. As for Peter and Paul, I don't give a tremendous amount of credence to their epistles. Both were largely officiating the creation of a new religion, and Paul was too self-absorbed for my taste.

    2. Just want to add a couple of things...

      "Rather than remake God in your image, you're cutting up the Bible to remake God in the image that you feel he should be in."

      I'm actually (hopefully) doing neither. I no longer rely on the bible to determine who God is and isn't. Like I say, if it's anything more than a supplement to faith then it's the object of faith. Even the bible itself doesn't point to itself as the source of truth and knowledge - certainly not with any consistancy. That's the handiwork of man-made and man-officiated religion.

      "If you're going to cut it up, you may as well just open Word and write your own religious text defining God the way you believe he should be."

      I believe this to be largely what the writers of the NT epistles did, intentionally or otherwise, bearing in mind that they were writing letters (in much the same way we might write an email to someone - granted, long emails) and had no idea that they were writing "the bible", or that men would use their writing to control other men in direct contrast to things Jesus taught in the gospels.

    3. "I'm also curious to know how you think God treated Moses like crap."

      God appears to Moses for the first time when Moses is 80 years old, giving Moses a task that he absolutely doesn't want, and few, if any, sane people would want. Moses does "exactly and precisely" every single thing God asks of him for 40 years, against incredible human odds, and in the face of nearly constant opposition, except...for ONE time when, rather than speaking to a rock as instructed, he strikes the rock in frustration at the Israeli people. For that one tiny, tiny, tiny incident, Moses is denied the payoff of everything God has required of him. I can't imagine that if I had an employee who for 40 years took on every crappy, stinking job I gave him, performed them all perfectly and with humility as no one else would have, and was basically my hands and feet in my enterprise, that if in one isolated, tiny incident he didn't perform my instruction to the letter that I'd deny him his pension package...or take him to the bank, show him thousands and thousands of dollars, and say "This is what it looks like."

    4. Thank you for your responses. Your views are almost perfectly in line with mine.

      One thing I would be curious about is how you respond to the following: Moses did not want to perform the task God called him to have because Moses was unable to see the big, broad picture that God can see. Many times God calls us to do something we find unpleasant because it serves a greater purpose that only he knows. This theme is found through-out the Bible. Look at Jonah or Jesus. The story of Job is somewhat related. So when someone tries to say that these individuals were being selfish (except Jesus; no one ever remembers that he begged God so hard not to send him to the cross that he cried blood) and disobedient to God and his will, how does one counter that?

    5. Hmmm...Not sure I have a great answer for that. If God is all-knowing, it would stand to reason that he knows quite a few things we don't, but at the same time, if God is all-powerful, it would stand to reason that he could easily make us aware of key information, ANY information, that would make the assignments he gives us less of a hassle all the way around, and make us less resistant to them. I really don't know.

      I do, though, liken it to the situation I experienced with my ex and her family. I wouldn't insult a decent God by saying he had anything to do with what happened. What happened happened because my ex was malleable and naive and her father (and a couple of his buddies) were assholes who did destructive and terrible things in God's name - using the tools of a lifetime of brainwashing and indoctrination. Yes, I'm a stronger/better person in many ways because of it all, but I see that more as lemonade being made from lemons than God sitting somewhere saying "Alright, Lew, here comes my curveball."

  2. "God can seemingly only speak to them through a collection of books, because that collection becomes the barometer for everything that speaks to them, and the box into which they try to put everyone else. Something's only ok because "the bible" says it's ok. Something's only wrong because "the bible" says it's wrong"

    Yeah, I used to belive this too. Then you have your prophet listening following cult member freaks who agree with this statement to justify their leader & what they believe. And the fundies will say, "oh they got sucked into a cult because they weren't using "The Bible" as their plumbline". Really? That's just stupid. So the Bibles responsible for everyone including the "yoga cults" too? Where's the critical thinking? Oh, and what about the New Testament believers who say the OT are allegories of what Jesus is to do thru us now?!? UGH Your damned if you do & damned if you don't. I've never felt more free without oppression now that I'm recovering from spiritual addiction aka Bible worship. Thanks L!

  3. Great to see another post from you! Interesting and informative, as always.

  4. Agree 100% with you as usual, Lewis. Good to hear from you again ... I've stopped following most blogs but still look forward to your opinions and views.

  5. The biblical canon was created as a means of and to control.

    This (which you said in a comment) is simply not a factual or true statement of how the canons of Scripture came about, at least not up until the Protestant Reformation, at which point some individuals did exercise some individual discretion in selections for their new churches (or "deselections," as certain books still read in Eastern Orthodoxy or Roman Catholicism were rejected). In any case, the early centuries of Christianity, leading up to St. Athanasios's famous letter that contains our earliest surviving list of the New Testament books as we still know them today, were years of developing consensus. There was no dominating exercise of church control by selecting a certain collection of books. It simply didn't happen that way.

    Mind you, I think that the Bibliolatry of the Fundamentalistic branches of Christianity is dangerous, and I think that sola Scriptura is an absurd (and, odd enough, un-Biblical) doctrine. Those who adhere to such doctrine find themselves fractured into countless interpretations, and often the most virulently "Bible-believing" Christians are the ones with the most practices or beliefs one cannot even find anywhere in the Bible at all or will indeed even find flatly contradicted by the Bible.

    As for picking and choosing and the harshness of the Old Testament God, I'll just point out that most of the Commandments of the Torah were removed from Christian practice by the Council in Jerusalem, recorded in the Acts of the Apostles. So any reasonable Christian who knows his New Testament knows that, for instance, there shouldn't be a single thought given to stoning an unruly son. Which of course makes the madness of, say, R.J. Rushdoony, all the more perplexing and, again, un-Biblical.

    What that means for you or anyone else in trying to find God or determine Who He is or what-have-you ... well, I don't have much to say about that.

    1. What one needs to understand about the New Testament is that the first books weren't written until at least 20 years after christ' death, and the New Testament that we all know wasn't canonized until over 300 years after his death. During that time, the early church leaders were writing letters to various churches that they had started or were helping to mentor. At some point these letters were circulated to a wider audience than the original church audience, with enough lower church leaders buying into what was written. As they gained acceptance, they gained divinity. I view most of the New Testament as no more divinely inspired than I view the writings of Martin Luther or James Dobson.

      Remember, God didn't hand us a copy of the NT or tell the church leaders which books to include. The prominent leaders at the Third Council of Carthage decide which books to include, and if you know anything about the early church (the church after all the original apostle dies) you'll know it was a period when different religious leader held competing religious theories and beliefs. Christianity was "standardized" under Constantine, who saw it not as a way of salvation but as a way to unify his empire. Thus the government adopted and promoted certain ideas, and these ideas eventually stamped out any competing theology. Something to remember about the early, competing theological beliefs: each of the main players could trace his authority directly back to an apostle, which is why the different ideas gained credence.

      Now turning to the NT again, prior to Third Council, there were different versions of the NT. I believe all version shared the 4 main Gospels, but beyond that there wasn't a universal canon. Some versions excluded Paulian epistles, other versions included epistles from apostles that are no longer a part of the NT. Thus when the final NT version was done, it was done as a means of control, of unification. And again, remember that the majority of NT books are nothing more than lengthy opinion articles written by the primary religious figures at that time.

    2. For the first fifteen hundred or so years of the Christian Era there was no one authoritative "canonization" of Scripture, and any of the more modern dogmatic proclamations by the Eastern or Western Churches were merely iterations of canons that they had been following for centuries anyway. The Third Council of Carthage, for instance, was not an Ecumenical Council, and any canons or statements it issued with respect to Scripture were just iterations of "canons" that had already been iterated before. It did not lay down a universal rule of the New Testament for Christendom. The contents of the New Testament developed through conciliation and acceptance in the life of the Church. The writings of Church Fathers and of Bishops as well as councils of Bishops reflect this. To say that these meetings--again, none of which individually and authoritatively proclaimed the canon of the New Testament--were setting forth a Scriptural canon as a means of control is a gross oversimplification.

      Of course the Councils, most importantly the Ecumenical Councils, gathered together to address heresies. If one chooses language of "control" to describe this, one reveals one's bias with respect to Divinity and Christian Dogma. That is another debate altogether of course. Nonetheless, of course councils gathered and Church Fathers wrote (extensively) in order to be clear about what Christian belief was in numerous matters. In the instances of matters such as Christology or iconography addressed in Ecumenical Councils, the pronouncements had a more authoritative tone, but these Councils and the numerous Patristic authors were not issuing novel statements: they were gathering history and sifting through it to arrive at coherent statements of the consensus of the Church.

      As for Emperor Constantine, however debatable his motives were in permitting Christianity in the Empire, he and his government did not adopt and promote "certain ideas" in order to "stamp .... out any competing theology." Constantine was not a theologian, and he did not issue religious or dogmatic decisions. He left that up to the members of the Church, in the persons of the numerous Church Fathers and the Bishops who convened at the Councils.

      I don't really care whether anyone here thinks the Bible is the Word of God--well, I mean, on some level of course I care, but not for the purposes of this discussion--and I should mention that I came upon this Web site on account of investigations of mine stemming from bad experiences I have had with insane Christian Patriarchy and Fundamentalistic Bibliolatry. You will not find in me a Bible-worshiper. Nonetheless, and even though my principal reasons for reading the essays on this site are of a different purpose than this current discussion, I did feel inclined to speak up about these oversimplified statements about "control" in the Church and the "canonization" of Holy Scripture.

    3. I don't see it as oversimplification. Simplification, sure. It's fair to say that most of the officiation, at least that which affects the Christian religion today, has taken place in the centuries since the reformation, but there's little difference in practical application between the early councils determining what was and wasn't heresy and the reformers determining what was and wasn't inspired. The various canons were just a prominent tool in their efforts to officiate a new religion (for the early leaders) or officiate a radically changing religion (for the leaders of the reformation)...or for modern fundamentalists, to maintain a century-old system that they mistakenly believe has been around as long as God. It all revolves around control.

    4. Virgil, would you mind sharing some of the sources of early church writing? It seems your understanding of the early Christian days is rather greater than mine, and I would welcome the ability to read more and develop my beliefs further.

      Everything I've read has shown that during the first several centuries there was great debate over which books were included and which weren't. As you mentioned, Athanasius is the first person credited with listing the NT in the form that we have now, and his canon was accepted at the Carthege Council. From that point on, to me it's seemed that in Europe, Italy in particular, the canon of the NT and the beliefs were firmly established. Constantinople and other eastern locations still held non-doctrinal or heretical positions, which explains the Orthodox christianity today. But the version we have grew from what was developed at the Carthege Council. Reading about the developments of the early church circa 400AD and to the Reformation, it seems that religion was often used as a political means.

    5. You are confusing two things: the Orthodox Churches - such as the Antiochene Orthodox Church, Greek Orthodox, Russian Orthodox: and the Church of the East, or the Orthodox Church of the East.

      Orthodox Churches accept the first 7 Ecumenical Councils and are not heretics. The Syrian churches (the Church of the East) were for a long time considered to be Monophysites, because they were not involved in the "homoousios" and "homoiousios" debate (whether the Divine Nature of Jesus was one with the Father, or just similar to the Father). However, their position has been clarified - they were never Monophysite heretics.

      Syrian Christians used to be spread quite widely - from the Mediterranean to the South of India. Recently, however, they have been expelled from Iraq with the new government, and they are being cleansed from Syria by the US backed rebels. Back in the 1950s and 60s in Iran the Shah did a good job of get rid of them.

    6. As early as Ignatius of Antioch (1st Century) we have remarkable evidence of a substantial portion of what would later be solidly regarded as our New Testament, and it wasn't long after Ignatius that Polycarp of Smyrna wrote a reckoning of Scripture that contains the majority of our New Testament and, impressive enough, no or virtually no books that were later rejected by the Church. So a number of early writers were either quoting from the books of the New Testament or positing that those books or many of them were Divinely Inspired. Origen of Alexandria (1st and 2nd centuries) is a notable example for his muscular exegetical and Scriptural work, and he is notable also as an example of one who contributed substantially to our religious and spiritual thought (and remains vastly cited to this day) even though he also apparently had some unfortunate ideas that led to censure by later Councils: his better work, though, was and is still regarded well for its contribution. Irenaeus of Lyon and Eusebius of Caesarea (moving into the second, third, and fourth centuries) come to mind also, as does the substantially earlier Clement of Alexandria, who recently came across my reading for a commentary he wrote about the Parable of the Prodigal Son.

      I came across that commentary, by the way, in relation to a discussion at my church, and at this point I'll mention that I am an Orthodox Christian, and I echo some of Anonymous's comments about Orthodoxy. Although I know some Independent Fundamentalist Baptists who would disagree, I don't think I'm a heretic (and I don't think the non-Chalcedonian Orthodox, which is to say the Coptic or Oriental Orthodox Anonymous mentions who suffered the misunderstanding about monophysitism at the Council of Chalcedon, are heretics either). It is also worth mentioning that one major thing that separates the Orthodox East from the Protestant West is the regard for Scripture. Scripture itself, of course, says that the Church is the pillar and foundation of truth, and we do not believe that the Church is based on the Bible: it can't be; after all, Christians in the early centuries did not have Bibles (or literacy, for that matter) circulating the way that we do now, and what were all of those Christians and their churches that, say, the Apostle Paul was writing to before the books of the New Testament were finished?

      The early Church Fathers and other authors quoted from a number of sources, and some proposed which books they reckoned were Divinely Inspired and which were worthy to be read albeit not Divinely Inspired and which were heretical. I have a quote, for instance, from the Didache on my "blog." It's not part of the Bible, and you won't hear it quoted in any Orthodox service, but it is still worth a read. Indeed the writings of the Church Fathers themselves are worth reading, ranging from the ones who were bona fide Saints to the ones who were somewhat more problematical but still edifying (like Origen).

      The morning is getting away from me. And I'm leaving too many long, self-important comments here. Anyway, thanks for your question, and sorry about the delay. I hope my sort of summary recollection of what I've learned was a somewhat useful answer.

  6. it's interesting to note that Jesus told his disciples that the Holy Spirit would lead them into all truth, not that reading the scriptures would lead them into all truth

    he also once told the pharisees---"you think that by studying the scriptures you have life---but the scriptures point to ME!"

    something to think about

  7. I've really enjoyed almost everything I've read so far. I do have some questions for you though.

    Being of a (formerly) like mind to yourself, how is it--from a logical standpoint--that Christianity (or Christ) is any different (or more believable maybe?)than anything else?

    You said you've never read the Quran; I have. And your assessment of it's violence compared to the violence of the OT is accurate--but to be fair, the Hadith more than make up the difference.

    The teachings of Christ are no more revolutionary from a humanist standpoint than those of Buddha. I would argue than the humanist thinkers of the Enlightenment period have been far more revolutionary than Jesus or Buddha, in fact.

    I would infer from reading your blog that the concepts of original sin and sacrificial atonement are anathema in your mind--but these doctrines are part of the core 'essentials' of orthodox Christian dogma.

    It would seem to me that you've outgrown Jesus.

    I don't mean to be the combative atheist, or even so much as the devil's advocate here. I went through a similar process on my own, and any time I encounter someone such as yourself who still clings to Christ, I find myself wondering what it is that separates my journey from theirs(yours).

    So I suppose my real question is this: Why is it that you feel you need to believe, in all honesty?

    1. Fair question. Don't know that I can answer it well, but I'll try...

      I don't know that I'd label where I'm at as a "need" to believe. I look at my compulsion to learn and grow as the true need within my spirituality. I don't worry about the source or sources of that knowledge or growth. I'm no longer into orthodox Christian dogma, so I don't worry about whether or not where I am now or where I'll be tomorrow falls within its margins. I generally separate the account and teachings of Christ from orthodox Christianity (which seems to have done the same thing).

      I'm probably more into the ideal of Christ than into the methodology of Christianity. In my experience over the last couple of years, I've actually seen more of that ideal in many atheists than in the Christian community, and I've no doubt that if I studied the teachings of Buddha or a prominent humanist from the Enlightenment I'd often discover the same dynamic.

      I think a better description of where I am than someone who's outgrown Jesus (but still clings to him) is someone who left (or outgrew, if you will) the box of fundamentalist or orthodox teaching/thinking and isn't afraid of what he'll find to be true and lasting outside of it, even if it places him at total odds with all he knew to be true.

      I've left the need to be "pleasing to God" and placed my focus on being a good, honest, and decent friend, son, brother, human being. I don't worry about what comes after - because I haven't a clue, and to my knowledge don't have a say. I focus on the here and now. The only thing I KNOW to be absolutely true here and now is that genuine love and decency don't harm anyone they're shown toward...and most everything else has strings attached.

      I hope there's something of an answer in there somewhere.

  8. Ok, you just lost me. What are you doing here? You label this "Let's not make God in our image", then you do just that, claiming we can believe in jesus elsewhere and then making His Father in your own image and by your own rules here. Yeah, the Qu'ran is worse; it advises people to kill non-Christians and beat wives if they refuse to behave. Please do some research, including into the Bible. This country is still one of the best there is, inspite of Christian values being increasingly ignored.


    1. I've noticed a pattern in your comments. They've been consistently stupid.

  9. when God speaks, God use We/I/Us/Me, but you can NEVER find verses referring to God as “They/Their”.

    Then God said, “Let Us make man ‘in Our image, according to Our likeness’; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” Genesis 1:26

    God was speaking with majestic authority thus using Us/Our in Gen1:26.

    God said clearly “in Our Image according to Our likeness” referring to mankind becoming rulers and creators on earth. Not by any means using the physical of God to create shape of man and female, but rather figure-like to that of God having dominance over universe, but for mankind they having dominance over other living creature on earth.

    (followed by singular third person verse) And God created man ‘in His (notice verse do Not use THEIR) own image, in the image of God’ created He him; male and female created He them. Genesis 1:27

    And if we use Pauline-Christian logic. Who's image was the verse referring to? Father? As Christians should know that Word and Spirit do not have image.
    Do Christians believe Father/Word/Holy Spirit have image or all three were imageless?